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February 15, 2013

Badger's journey continues

If you ever wondered why Chris Badger chose an LDS mission in Ecuador over going directly from Timpview High School in Provo, Utah to Notre Dame, it only takes one conversation to realize you’re not talking about your average Joe.

Badger lets a higher power direct his course, and his 21-month mission 3,500 miles away in Ecuador was all part of the unfolding plan that is his life.

Although the experience was life changing in a positive way for the 6-foot-0, 193-pound sophomore-to-be safety, there’s nothing quite like the realization of a dream to attend Notre Dame. After falling victim to not one but two armed robberies in Ecuador, Badger appreciates the safe haven the campus of Notre Dame offers.

“You get such a special feeling, it’s inspirational,” said Badger, who enrolled at Notre Dame in the spring of 2010 before heading to Ecuador. “You get a feeling that you want to do great things. You come to Notre Dame because you want to do great things on the football field and in life.

“I love the spiritual aspect at Notre Dame, kind of the feeling that anything’s possible. School-wise, I had a good semester, and football-wise, it (was) an incredible year. It’s just the perfect place for me to grow and develop all around: spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically.”

The first time Badger was held up on his mission, the armed robber demanded his money and cell phone. Badger gave the man the few dollars he had, but said that he didn’t own a cell phone.

“But I do have a book that is about God,” Badger reportedly said to the armed robber, who promptly gave Badger back his money.

The second time he was held up, the demand was his money and his brand new Adidas shoes. Badger walked home in his socks.

For Badger to achieve his football goals at Notre Dame, he’s going to have to wade through a bunch of talented, and in most cases, larger bodies. Badger will be one of seven scholarship safeties vying for playing time in the Irish secondary this spring, eight if Elijah Shumate returns to safety after working at cornerback and nickel in 2012. This summer, five-star recruit Max Redfield joins the competition.

“From (December) through March, I’m doing everything I can to get bigger, faster and stronger, and just to show the coaches I’m someone they can put their trust in and someone that will make plays,” Badger said.

“In the spring, I’ll get a chance to get more reps and an opportunity to show I can make plays. So I’m truly excited. I’m only a couple of months into a four- or five-year career, so I’ve just got to be patient.”

Although every defensive back can be better or smoother with his technique, Badger’s greater challenge is to add more size and strength while tending to the specific details of fundamental play. There was no training table in Ecuador.

“I like to do extra work on my footwork,” Badger said. “It’s so important. It’s such a little thing but it makes such a big difference. I feel like I’m really good at reading and reacting to plays, so if I read and react to something and I take one little extra step, that’s going to make all the difference between batting a ball down or maybe making an interception.

“So what I try to work on is staying really low when I backpedal, taking quick steps, not taking extra steps and trying to be as quick and fast as possible. Now I just need to add bigger, faster and stronger to that.”

But to spend any time with Badger is to know that football is just a portion of his life. Right now, he’s also enjoying the Notre Dame experience. Before coming to Notre Dame, he called his enrollment at Notre Dame “a match made in heaven.” He also said he received “a revelation” that Notre Dame “is where I need to be.”

“All of my teammates have just been so great,” Badger said. “One of my great friends on the team is Danny Spond, and he’s been a great inspiration to me. He got hurt back in fall camp and he came back, and (he had) such an amazing year. I love seeing him do so well.”

Badger also credited Manti Te’o for being a good friend during his first semester back at Notre Dame. They attended Sunday service together at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Mishawaka, Ind.

Badger stays in touch with friends he made in Ecuador. Facebook allows them to “share the gospel” with one another. He admits he needs to do a better job of staying in touch with his Ecuadorian friends, partly to maintain his mastery of the Spanish language. He was able to brush up on his Spanish with some of the locals during his weeklong stay in south Florida for the national championship game.

He found that Ecuadorians didn’t have much interest in American football, at least until they heard how many people attended Notre Dame home football games.

Asked if he had lost any shoes recently, Badger laughed: “I lost some flip flops. It’s yet to be determined if I lost them or they were stolen. But I’m definitely praying that’s the last time I ever get a gun pointed in my face.”

Makes the pressure of competition in the Irish secondary pale in comparison.


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