SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The announcement was posted on the freshman's Facebook page at precisely 9:57 a.m. on July 12.
"Well everybody. I haven't really told a lot of people, but my mission papers are finished and I'll be getting my call soon and hopefully leaving in August. After the mission it will be back to Notre Dame to finish my school and football career."
For Chris Badger, who usually posts his favorite quotes or scriptures, the decision to serve the Lord was a big one. The Internet proclamation meant the 18-year-old was putting his college football career at Notre Dame on hold to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for two years.
The large white envelope is expected to arrive any day now. For several days friends and relatives have tried on Facebook to predict where Badger will serve. Most say Germany because Badger took five years of German in high school. His father served in Brazil, so South America wouldn't be so bad, he said.
"I guess the only continent I wouldn't prefer is Asia. I am kind of a picky eater," Badger said.
Originally, the former Timpview High School (Provo) star had planned to play four years with the Irish and then depart for the mission field at age 21 or 22. But as he participated in South Bend spring practices, something about that plan didn't feel right.
"Over the spring, I started to pray about it a lot and read my scriptures a lot more," Badger said. "It became clear to me it would be better to go in the fall."
But what would his coaches say? Would there be a scholarship waiting when he returned? Honestly, Badger said he wasn't nervous.
"I know that coach (Brian) Kelly is a spiritual guy and easy to talk to. He really cares about everybody. That reassured me that he would be understanding. But I didn't know how he would react," said the 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety. "He was all for it. He promised everything would be there when I got back. I was really happy to see how supportive he was. He thinks it will be a great opportunity. He knew it would be best for me in the end. He wished me good luck and is excited to find out where I am going."
Badger has prepared for his mission by doing missionary work in South Bend. Badger, along with fellow Mormon teammates Manti Te'o, Kona Schwenke and Justin Utupo, have been inviting curious teammates to attend an LDS family ward in the area. Badger has also spent time with the full-time missionaries at least every other week since January.
"Being a football player opened doors to talk to people you wouldn't otherwise and explain the church. Some of the people I talk with now probably wouldn't listen to me with a name tag," Badger said. "I have been able to talk to coaches and numerous other players about the church. Everyone has been really receptive of it. It's been a completely positive experience."
The reaction to his decision has also been positive, he said.
"It's been amazing. Everyone on the team has congratulated me. Many have said 'Wow, what a great decision to make,'" Badger said.
"I think they see the mission as a great opportunity to become closer to God and grow spiritually. Many were surprised I didn't get to pick a place."
While Badger is willing to go anywhere, he hopes he will be sent somewhere that doesn't require eating crazy stuff so he can keep his weight up. When he returns, he expects to pick up where he left off.
"I will kind of be a weird, old guy, but I expect to still be able to compete and play at a high level."
E-mail: [email protected]