Notre Dame football: Hunter recovery delayed

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Torii Hunter Jr. was at a baseball field when he heard the news.

Watching his younger cousin play a game, Hunter saw a Twitter notification on his phone. It let him know he had been drafted by his father's baseball team.

In the 36th round of the MLB Draft, the Detroit Tigers selected Hunter, despite not playing baseball this spring. Within an hour, Hunter received congratulations from his dad, who's hitting .296 for the American League Central Division leaders, and they agreed he'd still be heading to Notre Dame.

Still, it was a welcomed surprise for the South Bend-bound wide receiver and outfielder.

"I had no idea," Hunter said. "It really came out of the blue."

It was needed good news for Hunter. Three weeks ago, he learned that his long recovery from a broken femur in his left leg had hit a snag. Shortly after surgery to repair the broken bone, which occurred on Jan. 1 during practice for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Hunter was told his recovery would take roughly six months. Now, Hunter's doctors told him the bone has yet to fully heal.

"The bone was only healing on the inside of the leg, but the outside still needs some healing," Hunter said. "Everyone thought that I was progressing pretty fast, but the bone kinda slowed me down."

Hunter had been rehabilitating his leg for months hoping to be healthy by the time he arrived on Notre Dame's campus in the summer. He's now set to start moving in on Saturday, but with a leg that still needs time to heal.

That's why the news that he was drafted in the 36th round -- so late that he had very little to consider with a Notre Dame scholarship already lined up -- meant so much to him.

"That was the biggest thing I got out of it -- the fact that they were thinking about me even through my injury," Hunter said.

The hiccup in his recovery put a damper in his final month before heading to Notre Dame. Hunter had been regaining strength in the muscles above his knee, but was told to ease up the intensity level as the rest of the bone heals.

Hunter called the news depressing, but has tried to stay positive.

"I've been trying to keep the leg strong, doing my upper-body workouts and trying to stay in shape on the bike," Hunter said. "There's only so much you can do."

His doctors at home haven't given him a timeline of when the bone will be ready for increased exercise.

"They have no idea," Hunter said. "It was supposed to be healed, but I don't know. It's just not."

The Notre Dame staff has been in frequent contact with Hunter's doctors, he said, and he'll be evaluated by the medical staff on campus. He's not sure what to expect for the summer session at ND, but he's anxious to get on campus and join his new teammates.

"I'll just take it day by day. If it happens to heal up over the summer, I'm going to hit it hard every day," Hunter said. "If there's any chance that I can play and they need me, then I'll be there."

Freshman arrivals

The first day of classes for Notre Dame's summer session start Monday and the remainder of the 2013 recruiting class will join their Irish teammates this weekend.

Linebacker Michael Deeb was the first to arrive in South Bend late Tuesday night. Running back Greg Bryant was set to arrive Friday evening. Safety Max Redfield is the only incoming freshman not expected to move in this weekend. Redfield's graduation from Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School isn't until June 19. He said he will head to Notre Dame the following day.

Torii Hunter Jr.