Tag: Danny Spond

Danny Spond

Danny Spond’s rise above adversity


In case you missed it, the NBC pregame show had a wonderful feature on Danny Spond, giving you a window into the life of the senior linebacker, who has had to transition from the starting lineup to life after football because of severe migraine headaches.

Spond rise about adversity has been one of the very wonderful stories of the season, watching a young man deal with a life-changing event in such a positive way. It’s hard to watch Spond’s father Don as he talks about not being able to see his son play football one last time.

Equally wonderful was Brian Kelly’s response to Spond addressing the team after being awarded the game ball after the Air Force victory, a game where Spond served as a game captain as the Irish played in front of his family and friends near his hometown in Colorado.

“That dude’s going to be president some day,” Kelly said.



Spond talks about the decision to walk away from football

Danny Spond

Notre Dame lost outside linebacker Danny Spond during fall camp after recurring issues with severe migraine headaches forced the senior to make the difficult to decision to walk away from the game.

Spond had never suffered from migraines until he had one so debilitating that he suffered stroke-like symptoms last year during fall camp. After a stay in the hospital and meetings with several doctors, the Colorado native returned and became a key contributor during last season’s BCS Championship run, taking over the starting Drop linebacker job and running with it.

But after suffering three hemiplegic migraines in the span of a year, Spond decided to retire from football, a decision he didn’t make easily. He finally spoke about the decision with UND.com.

“I would have rather just had my head torn off than have it attached during those moments,” Spond told UND.com when describing the pain he felt during the migraines. “I couldn’t see. My whole left side of my body was completely numb. I can’t open my eyes. My speech gets slurred. When I smile, only half of my face smiles. I lose control of my left arm. I lose control of my left leg. I wouldn’t wish any of it on my worst enemy.”

Spond was set to return at outside linebacker and be a key anchor to the defense when he was struck with another headache in camp. The injury was crippling — he was still using a cane to walk at practice a week after the incident.

Ultimately, Spond met again with neurologists in Ann Arbor and continually with doctors at Notre Dame, trying to find a solution for a rare headache that can trigger eplieptic seizures, stroke-like symptoms and even a coma. In the end, it just didn’t make sense for him to continue putting himself at risk.

Spond talked about the difficult decision to tell Bob Diaco and Brian Kelly he was retiring and the emotions that came with telling his teammates.

“I had tears in my eyes and a lot of guys came up to me with tears in their eyes as well,” Spond told UND.com. “It just showed me how much support I have. It really was a testament to the university. That’s why Notre Dame is the most special and honorable place to play football in the country.”





Offseason cheat sheet: Linebackers


While the linebacking corps might be best known for the player that departed, the Irish should be very strong both inside and out even without All-American Manti Te’o roaming the field. Head coach Brian Kelly has talked quite a bit about the type of teammate and leader the Irish need to replace in Te’o, but there’s confidence in the team meeting room that the defense should be just fine without the defensive player of the year.

While Danny Spond’s retirement during fall camp took away another starter, there’s depth at all four positions under Bob Diaco’s watch. With talented newcomers blending with a strong group of seniors, this is likely the best linebacking corps the Irish have fielded since the Holtz era.


It’s crazy to think that this position could’ve actually gotten stronger while losing Te’o, but there’s a very good argument to be made. With fifth-year seniors Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese starting, it’s hard to think of a more experienced duo in the middle of the field. While Calabrese has some deficiencies in pass coverage, he’s had a strong summer and fall camp, holding off Jarrett Grace, who looked like a guy that would plug into Te’o’s role while Fox and Calabrese would continue their platoon.

Senior Kendall Moore provides an exciting backup, a guy that’s immensely productive in the run game but still needs to advance his skills against the pass. Former walk-on Joe Schmidt is also in the mix, with freshman Michael Deeb looking like a guy physically ready to contribute.

The strength of this group might be on the edges. Prince Shembo could be one of college football’s most underrated players, and he could very well end up with double-digit sacks from his Cat linebacker position. Shembo put on nearly ten pounds since last season and somehow looked slimmer during fall camp. Spond’s departure also opened the door for Jaylon Smith, and it’ll be interesting to see how quickly Smith becomes a difference maker for this unit. With the cover skills of a cornerback at 230 pounds, Smith should also be very productive against the outside run game.

With talented depth across the board, we’ll likely see a lot of Ishaq Williams, a guy some people still project to be a front-line All-American caliber player. Kelly talked about Williams quite a bit this camp, saying the junior is ready to take the next step. The same could be said for Ben Councell, who adds some bulk at the Dog linebacker position, capable of playing physical in the box.


Here’s a look at the positional breakdown of both inside and outside linebackers.

Dan Fox, Sr. #48
Carlo Calabrese, Sr. #44
Jarrett Grace, Jr. #59
Kendall Moore, Sr. #8
Joe Schmidt, Jr. #38
Michael Deeb, Fr. #42
Prince Shembo, Sr. #55
Ishaq Williams, Jr. #11
Jaylon Smith, Fr. #9
Ben Councell, Jr. #30
Romeo Okwara, Soph. #45
Danny Spond, Sr. #13
Anthony Rabasa, Jr. #56
Doug Randolph, Fr. #19
Connor Little, Jr. #93
Austin Larkin, Fr. #52


Expect to see a lot of the top three inside linebackers, with Fox and Calabrese sharing snaps with Grace. Fox might be more of the every down player, but all three are close to interchangeable parts, while Moore could help out situationally.

On the outside, it’ll be interesting to see how Bob Diaco finds snaps for Shembo and Williams, as both are in the team’s top eleven defenders and should find a way to be on the field. For a freshman, Smith has a bunch of qualities that make it very difficult to take him off the field, but that’s an awful lot of pressure on a first year player.

A player to watch: Romeo Okwara. Will the coaching staff try and protect a year of eligibility for the just tuned 18-year-old, or is he too good to keep off the field, even at the deepest position on the roster.