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Badger tops those leaving Utah

Editor's note: This is the last in a series leading up to today's National Letter of Intent Day.

Former Timpview High safety Chris Badger wasn't intent on playing college football in a different state.

The first two scholarship offers he received came from Utah and BYU. He looked at both schools pretty hard, he said, but his decision came down to finding the right fit.

The right fit for the hard-hitting, instinctive and ball-hawking safety was the opportunity to wake up the echoes at the University of Notre Dame. Badger, who's already enrolled at Notre Dame and taking 17 credit hours this semester, will officially sign with the Fighting Irish Wednesday.

"It came down to having to make a tough choice and going with my gut feeling," Badger said earlier this week. "It came down to having a great opportunity to maybe play early, and play on a national stage in front of millions of people every week. It's a world-class institution."

Badger is one of at least four local players who will sign with out-of-state institutions Wednesday. Former Pleasant Grove quarterback Dallas Lloyd will sign to play at Stanford. Former Park City running back Dylan Chynoweth will sign with Navy. Former Cottonwood defensive back Kyle Aberton will sign with Yale. Another highly regarded local player, Brighton's Ricky Heimuli, may also leave the state. He has multiple offers and will announce his decision Wednesday.

Lloyd also had offers from Utah and BYU before committing to Stanford last summer. He has said that academics played a big role in his decision to the sign with the Pac-10 school, as well as the connection he made with the coaching staff.

"He fell in love with the school and the opportunities it looked like it offered," said Pleasant Grove coach Dale Sampson. "That was his first pick."

Stanford, ironically, was also Badger's first pick. He originally committed to The Cardinal before making a visit to South Bend, Ind., to see what the Fighting Irish offered last summer. It didn't take long for Badger to realize he wanted to wear Notre Dame's gold and blue and he switched commitments.

"It's something special," Badger said of the opportunity to play at Notre Dame. " 'Rudy' was my favorite movie growing up. The 'Play like a champion' sign, gold helmets ... they have fans everywhere."

Chynoweth, the 3A MVP, ran roughshod over 3A defenses during his senior year. He had offers from Air Force and Army before choosing to play and serve his country at the Naval Academy. Chynoweth led the state in rushing and scoring, running for 2,258 yards while scoring 34 touchdowns his senior year.

Aberton was a two-year starter and team captain at Cottonwood. He had 151 tackles, 23 pass deflections, five interceptions and four forced fumbles during his high school career.

There's a chance three of the local prospects leaving the state will compete against each other on the next level. Notre Dame plays Stanford in 2010 and 2011, meaning Badger could face Lloyd if both are playing. They played against each other three times in high school, with Badger winning two of the contests.

Lloyd, however, could leave on an LDS Church mission before those two games. Badger is still undecided on when he'll serve a mission. He said he'll either leave after his freshman season or after he graduates.

Badger and Chynoweth will without a doubt play against each other in college. Notre Dame plays Navy every season, and Badger is already looking forward to the Fighting Irish and Midshipmen facing off in Dublin, Ireland, in 2012. The two players are good friends, as they played on the same eighth-grade team in Park City that went undefeated and won a little league championship.

"Dylan's a great guy," Badger said. "When he committed to Navy, I was really excited for him. I look forward to seeing him and playing against him. I've never tackled him before, I don't think."

Badger will also play against Utah next season, as the Fighting Irish host the Utes on Nov. 13.

The recruiting process took some interesting turns for Badger. In addition to changing his commitment, he also dealt with having the coach who recruited him get fired. Badger admits he began looking at his options when Charlie Weis was fired at Notre Dame, but he felt at ease once he talked to new coach Brian Kelly and kept his commitment solid.

"Coach Kelly brought a lot to the table," Badger said. "Everyone wants to be a part of it. The feeling I've gotten, and so have other players, is that really big things are happening."

It's big for Badger to be a Golden Domer, as he'll be just the fourth player in the state's history to play for Notre Dame.