PROVO — For safety Chris Badger, transferring to BYU meant coming home.
Badger, a Provo native and Timpview High product, left Notre Dame to become a Cougar. So far, it’s been a natural fit, an almost seamless transition.
In high school, Badger was teammates with current BYU players like Craig Bills, Michael Alisa, Bronson Kaufusi and Tui Crichton.
“It’s like picking up where we left off,” Badger said Monday, the first time he had spoken to reporters since his transfer from Notre Dame. “It’s been a good transition, being back home. I feel really comfortable. I feel like I’ll be able to develop and become a good player here. I know this is the right place to be. It’s hard to come in after fall camp, but I feel like I’m picking things up fairly well.”
Last week, the NCAA approved a waiver request by BYU on behalf of Badger that allowed him to play this season. The approval made Badger, a redshirt freshman, immediately eligible.
“When they said I could play,” Badger said, “I was happy.”
Badger didn’t play last week against Utah. But there’s a chance he could get on the field — perhaps on special teams — Friday (7 p.m. MDT, ESPNU) when the Cougars host Middle Tennessee.
How long until he gets his chance to play?
“You have to earn your stripes,” Badger said. “If I continue to work hard in practice, then I can show what I can do. That’s kind of my goal right now. The last few weeks, I’ve been on the scout team because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to play (this season) or not. I don’t know when I’ll play or if I’ll play this year. I’m just taking it day by day.”
Badger has also been working with the second team and third team at safety. In high school, he teamed with Bills to produce a formidable combo in the defensive backfield at Timpview.
“We get along really well. Craig is an idol for me,” Badger said. “He’s a hero. He’s such a good guy off the field, and he’s a maniac on the field.”
Last fall, when BYU traveled to South Bend, Ind., Badger was on the scout team at Notre Dame, enjoying the Fighting Irish’s undefeated regular season and run to the national championship game.
In November, the Cougars invaded historic Notre Dame Stadium for a showdown the Irish won, 17-14.
“It was a lot of fun before the game, being able to joke with Craig and Bronson,” Badger remembered. “It was a close game and it could have gone either way. My whole family went out there for it, and it was the only game they all went out for. It was great. I was trying to find as many tickets as I could. I loved it.”
BYU returns to South Bend on Nov. 23, when he will see his former Notre Dame teammates.
“I can’t wait to see so many friends there. I really built some really good relationships out there,” Badger said. “It will be good to see them again and joke with them. Then once the game starts, just play football. I just love to play football, wherever it is. It will be special.”
Badger is grateful for the season he spent at Notre Dame, following a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Ecuador. As a member of the Irish scout team, he had the opportunity to cover star tight end Tyler Eifert, who went on to become a first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I learned a lot, definitely learned how to play college football, even though I was on the scout team,” he said. “Covering Tyler Eifert every day was great for me. I was able to gain a lot of confidence. If I can cover a first-round draft pick in practice, you feel good about yourself. Sometimes you get beat, and you have to learn.”
What factors led Badger to transfer to BYU?
“Personal reasons, and being close to home,” he said. “I’ve always loved BYU and I have a lot of friends on the team. It’s going to be a good place for me. I’m going to be able to develop well as a person here and be close to my family. It’s going to be a good situation for everyone.”
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company