When summer classes start for Notre Dame's next freshman class of football prospects, the Irish will count a former three-star prospect with a semester of college football experience in that group.
Chris Badger, who enrolled at Notre Dame in January 2010 after graduating a semester early from Timpview High School in Provo, Utah, is on track to make a return to South Bend once his Mormon mission is complete this spring.
The Badger family recently spoke with Irish director of football personnel Tim McDonnell about the safety's return the program. Badger has also been in touch with safeties coach Chuck Martin during his mission via e-mail. Badger has not spoken with head coach Brian Kelly about the final details of returning to the team.
"He's fired up for that," said Troy Badger, older brother to Chris. "He comes back off his mission in early March and the plan is for him to stay in Utah for about three months and train and try to get back into the swing of things. Then he'll head back to South Bend in June."
Chris Badger departed Notre Dame in August 2010 with the blessing of head coach Brian Kelly to undertake a two-year mission in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He had participated in the Blue-Gold Game and attended class for a semester and summer sessions before making the decision to leave.
Under standard circumstances Badger would need to stay out longer but it has been arranged for him to return home a little sooner.
"It's a fair amount early by Mormon mission standards," Troy Badger said. "The kind of technical rule is 18 months. The girls that go out on missions only go out for 18 months. Traditionally the guys go out for two years. He might be coming back the end of March or early April. It's not 100 percent clarified. It'll be four or five months early."
During his time away Badger has tried his best to maintain some semblance of physical conditioning.
Badger has mixed speed training and regular workout routines into his mission duties in hopes of returning quickly to the form that netted him scholarship offers from BYU, Cal, Florida State, Missouri, Northwestern, Oregon, Stanford and Utah during the recruiting process.
"I think it'll still be kind of an uphill battle but overall he's worked out as hard as he possibly could out there," Troy Badger said. "He's 190 pounds. I think when he left he was 200. He should be able to put that on pretty quickly. Wind sprints, he's doing speed training three times a week and feels like he's maintained that. Improving that would that would probably be the main obstacle coming back."
After having some experience both on the field and with the academic workload - combined with almost two years spent serving a demanding mission trip - Badger should return to South Bend capable of handling the environment.
"I think he'll be a lot more ready than he was as an early enrollee from a mental standpoint," Troy Badger said. "From a work standpoint, even from a physical standpoint too, I think overall, the mission will be good."