The Cougars of BYU will take on the challenge of playing Notre Dame this Saturday. Joining the Cougars on the trip will be former Notre Dame safety Chris Badger.
"Thoughts about heading back, I'm excited and I have a lot of friends out there from football, and school, and the ward," Badger said. "So, I'm definitely excited for the fireside on Friday night and hopefully a lot of people will go and [I can] kind of talk with them and catch up. Then I'm excited for Saturday. You know, anytime I get to be out there on the field, it's a great time. Obviously this week is going to be a great week. It's going to be a great week and I'm just excited to play football."
The Chicago Tribune reported that when Badger was still at Notre Dame, his mother Shauna became ill and wasn't able to travel to South Bend to watch him play. He made a difficult decision to leave Notre Dame, but he feels it was the right one.
"Yeah, looking back, I feel like it was the right decision for sure," Badger said. "Like I said, both schools are similar. I loved my time at Notre Dame. I definitely had a positive experience and learned a lot from it and took away great relationships with friends and people there in school and in the ward. So, like I said, the transition overall has been wonderful, and I'm 100 percent with my decision."
While former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis was the one that recruited Badger to the Irish program, current head coach Brian Kelly supported Badger in every major decision.
"I had a really good relationship with Coach Kelly," said Badger. "He's a really easy to talk to guy. Anytime one of the players needed to talk to him, you can go talk to him, so before my mission, when I told him I wanted to go on my mission, he was 100-percent supportive. He made sure my scholarship was there when I got back, and then when I went and talked to him about transferring, he was really understanding and gave me time to think about it. He made sure to let me know that if I wanted to stay, that my scholarship would be there. Coach Kelly is a great guy. He's classy, he's smart, he's really a good person and I think that's the best way to put it. He's a great football coach but more than anything he's just a really good person."
There are a few LDS players currently playing on Notre Dame's football team, including one-time BYU commit Kona Schwenke.
"Yeah, Kona is LDS and Justin Utupo is LDS, and Notre Dame is a great school academically. It's a spiritual school as well, being a Catholic university," Badger said.
Badger spoke highly of his former Notre Dame teammates, including Danny Spond, who has since walked away from the game due to hemiplegic migraines.
"The people on the team are really great guys, and so I've definitely kept in touch with a few of them. One of my best friends is linebacker Danny Spond. He got injured and was not able to play this year. I keep in touch with him and a few other players that I was friends with on the scout team last year. Like I said, it's going to be a lot of fun being able to see them before the game and share that time before it starts."
Another former Notre Dame linebacker that Badger was close with was former Heisman finalist Manti Te'o, who is now playing for the San Diego Chargers.
"I was close with Manti," Badger said. "We were home teaching companions, and so, yeah, we were really close. We would go to church every Sunday. I have a ton of respect for Manti. He's such a good guy."
Although Te'o was a highly touted player during his days at Notre Dame, Badger recalls moments when the Irish linebacker shook off his mantle of stardom to be just like everyone else.
"He's one of those guys where he would see someone sitting by themselves in the dining hall and he would go sit with them and talk with them and talk with them," recalled Badger. "You wouldn't think that [about him because of him] having that much attention, and being such a great player that he is, but he's just such a humble and great person. So yeah, Manti's awesome. I haven't talk to him a lot since he's been in the NFL, just a short message here and there."
After returning home from serving his LDS mission in June of 2012, Badger saw time on the Irish scout team. After transferring to BYU, the redshirt freshman has seen time on special teams and even played a little bit on defense.
"Yeah, I played mostly on special teams," Badger said. "Starting at the Middle Tennessee game, I played on punt return and then from there I played a lot on kickoff. Then at the Utah State game I played a little nickelback at the end, and then Saturday in the second half [against Idaho State] I played that nickel spot."
When Badger returns to Notre Dame Stadium this Saturday, he expects to get out on the field a little bit.
“I expect mostly to play on special teams this week, so mostly on kickoff," he said.