“People have always respected his game, but he particularly endeared himself to the school and the community when he decided to return for his senior year,” Lewis wrote in an email. “Leading one of the best defenses Notre Dame has seen in years, despite the tragic loss of his grandmother and girlfriend, has really won over the hearts of students and fans.”
Academically, Te’o carries a cumulative GPA of 3.2 and is enrolled in the College of Arts and Letters as a design major.
Spiritually, Te’o is active in his local LDS ward and occasionally invites nonmember teammates to worship services.
“Our team is very faith-based. We understand who our Heavenly Father is and who the Lord is,” Te’o said. “Guys have come to church with me and experienced Sunday (meetings). It’s been a great experience.”
Badger, a 6-foot, 193-pound freshman safety, has yet to play a down for the Irish.
Coming off his LDS mission to Guayaquil, Ecuador, the Provo native is redshirting this season with the promise of four years of eligibility. For now, he attends classes, plays with the scout defense in practice and wears a uniform at home games. He looks forward to seeing several former Timpview High teammates on the BYU sideline at Saturday’s game.
Badger’s first scholarship offer came from BYU the summer before his junior year of high school. A week later, the University of Utah offered. After his junior year, he had offers from Florida State University, University of Oregon, Louisiana State University, Stanford University, University of California and others.
“I was excited to get offered by BYU, but I wanted to keep my options open. I didn’t want to rush things,” Badger said.
He took official visits to LSU, Oregon, UCLA and Stanford before committing to the Cardinal. Then he got a call from Notre Dame and couldn’t resist one more visit. He eventually signed with the Irish.
“I had always been a fan of Notre Dame and watched them on TV. I admired safety Tom Zbikowski,” said Badger, who has always tried to set his goals high. “I really loved being on campus with my dad and brother. There was something special about it, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Badger estimates he and his teammates are three of at least five Latter-day Saints among approximately 8,500 undergraduate students at Notre Dame.
Badger and Te’o are home-teaching companions for one undergraduate sister and two local families. Badger teaches a class of five young men in the priests quorum of his ward each Sunday. He says church members really take care of the LDS students and often have them over for Sunday dinner.
Badger has continued to be a missionary. He recently introduced a friend to the full-time missionaries and she was later baptized. He has also created a profile on Mormon.org.
“It always comes up that I’m a Mormon, and I’m asked about my beliefs on a daily basis. People are interested and want to know what it’s all about, the history and the doctrine,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for me. I’ve answered questions from teammates, coaches, friends, teachers and others.”
Badger's mission experiences have not only helped him in sharing the gospel, but he also draws strength from them when training for the gridiron.
“My mission has helped me put a better perspective on things. It helps me realize how hard I need to work,” he said. “If I can work as hard now as I did on my mission and trust in God, I know I will be successful.”
Schwenke, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound junior nose guard, came to Notre Dame from Hauula, Hawaii.
In five games as a freshman in 2010, he recorded two tackles and recovered one fumble. As a sophomore, he played in three games.
This season, Schwenke has played in all six games, including a start against Michigan State University, and posted three tackles.
Schwenke said his decision to play for the Irish was last-minute. As with Badger, a visit to campus won him over.
He was considered undersize when he showed up on campus, and building body mass and muscle has been a massive challenge.
“I had to gain weight, and I gained it too quickly. It took me a year to get used to my weight,” he said. “I knew coming here wasn’t going to be easy. The hardest part was the transition from high school to college academically.”
The nose guard appreciated one particular day in his sociology of religion class when the teacher gave a fair lecture on the LDS faith.
“When I took the class, I assumed we would just learn about Catholicism, but he didn’t just focus on the Catholic religion,” Schwenke said. “It felt good to talk about Mormonism.”
The highlight for Schwenke this season has been the camaraderie and brotherhood felt among his teammates and coaches, regardless of religious differences.
“We don’t feel different; we are all brothers on the team. We feel like we’re at home,” Schwenke said. “My whole time here has been a highlight of my life. Everyone is so close. It’s comforting for me to know I have another family outside of Hawaii, and I think everyone feels like that on the team. We share a tight bond.”
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