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.

Spond discusses retirement due to hemiplegic migraines

Danny Spond

A year after being hospitalized from the same ailment during preseason camp, Notre Dame linebacker Danny Spond has been forced to walk away from football because of hemiplegic migraines. After missing last season’s two opening games as medical experts tried to diagnose Spond’s mysterious ailment, another bout with the crippling headaches during fall camp ended Spond’s career.

“My football playing career is over after suffering another paralyzing migraine early in fall camp,” Spond said in a statement. “I’ve received the best medical treatment and guidance possible. Unfortunately, an exact cause of these migraines remains undetermined, and in order to assure my overall well-being, I’m forced to walk away from the game with an extremely heavy heart.”

Head coach Brian Kelly discussed Spond’s decision to retire from the game as a player over the weekend, but did say he’ll stay around with the team as a student-coach, working with the drop linebackers throughout the season. Notre Dame also released additional information on the rare form of headache with a debilitating effect.

“Hemiplegic migraines are a rare form of headache that present with temporary stroke-like symptoms, such as weakness and slurred speech,” head football team physician Dr. Jennifer Malcolm released in the same statement. “Danny has suffered from a series of these migraines, but with medication, rehabilitation and a positive attitude he should avoid any long-term consequences. As there are no fully reliable predictors of hemiplegic migraines and ultimate prevention is extremely challenging, we fully support Danny.”

Last year, Spond spent time in a local South Bend hospital after his first headache, unable to walk after a collision in practice. First diagnosed as a serious concussion and rumored to be a stroke, Spond spent time seeing specialists from all around the country before he was properly diagnosed. That he suffered another serious migraine during training camp was just too much of a health risk, forcing him to walk away after fighting so valiantly to return last season.

Spond’s departure leaves a hole in the Irish starting lineup, but won’t leave a void in a locker room that won’t lose the senior leader. The Littleton, Colorado native who was a Rockne Scholar Athlete Award recipient gave a statement that showed you the type of person he is, with his faith holding strong as he tackles his latest challenge.

“This has been an incredibly difficult time for me and my family, but by the Grace of God, we can find comfort in His greater plan. Being a man of God and an ambassador for his word, I have come to realize that in times of questioning His plan you have to let go and let God take over, and that is what I am doing. I’ve played this game my entire life, and losing it makes me feel as if I have lost something inside. But I find comfort in knowing my Lord will open the next chapter in my life and fill what’s been taken.

“I want to sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank each and every person who has supported me and my career at Notre Dame for their thoughts and prayers. You are the greatest people and fans in this world and make Notre Dame the most righteous University that I could ever represent; I love each and every one of you so very much. I promise to continue to give all I can to this University this year by coaching my position and providing senior leadership in all ways. You may no longer hear my name on the field, but I promise you, this is not the last you will hear of Danny Spond. With God, my family, and Notre Dame, I will persevere to do great things.”

Injuries end Danny Spond’s career

BYU v Notre Dame

Sad news out of South Bend today, as senior linebacker Danny Spond announced that he’s retiring from football due to injuries. Multiple sources have told me that concussions have ended the career of the versatile 6-foot-2, 248-pound linebacker from Littleton, Colorado.

(After discussing Spond’s retirement with someone inside the program, the story has been adjusted. Concussions did not end Spond’s career.)

Brian Kelly announced the news Saturday after practice.

“It was an emotional decision,” Kelly said. “It didn’t come without a lot of thought. He spent the day speaking to a lot of specialists and his family was here, so this was not a decision that came easy.”

Spond’s career at Notre Dame was riddled with injuries, but will mostly be remembered by an impressive junior season in ’12. After a major hit last preseason almost ended Spond’s career, concussion like symptoms put Spond in the hospital before being diagnosed as migraine headaches. Spond returned after missing the start of the season to take over the Dog linebacker job, bringing a versatile player to Irish defense, holding up against the run while becoming a key cog in the Irish pass defense.

Spond was expected to start again at outside linebacker until another hit ended his career during this training camp. While Spond is likely to explain in more detail the difficult decision to call it a career, the field-side linebacker position now becomes a two-man race between junior Ben Councell and true freshman Jaylon Smith.

Still, it’s difficult to look too far in the future without acknowledging the loss of Spond both on and off the field. Kelly said as much himself, talking about the importance of the player that was Kelly’s first committed recruiting target at Notre Dame.

“He loves his teammates, but I think what’s most important is he did what was in his best interest for his future,” Kelly said. “He’s got a bright future… He wants to be with the team, and our teammates were excited to hear he’ll be with us every day. He’ll travel with us. He’ll help coach.”