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Spond decides to end career

Matthew DeFranks | Saturday, August 17, 2013

A year after debilitating migraines sidelined him, Irish senior linebacker Danny Spond is ending his football career, coach Brian Kelly announced Saturday afternoon.

Kelly did not specifically say why Spond will no longer play football but did say it was for medical reasons. He said Spond and his family will release a statement early next week.

Kelly said Spond will stay with the team to help coach the drop linebackers and mentor freshman Jaylon Smith and junior Ben Councell. He said Spond will also travel to all the games.

“He’s going to stay with us,” Kelly said. “He’s going to help us coach the drops. Who’s better qualified to give his experience, to help us with Jaylon and Ben? We’ll cross train Romeo Okwara at that position as well. He got a chance to talk to the team today and he’s beloved by everybody on our team. Obviously, he has a special place on our football team.”

Spond played in and started 11 games for the Irish last season, 39 tackles, one for loss, three break-ups and four passes defended. His lone interception of the season sealed Notre Dame’s 17-14 win over BYU. He also appeared in 18 games in his first two seasons, primarily on special teams.

He was present at practice Saturday morning, dressed in street clothes and using a cane to walk around.

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

“He loves his teammates. But I think what’s most important is that he did what’s in the best interests for his future. He’s got a bright future and his immediate is that he wants to be with the team.”

Senior linebacker Prince Shembo said the announcement stung him.

“Danny Spond is like a brother to me … but we’re still going to be here for him,” Shembo said. “He’s very intelligent, very smart, lives his life the right way so I know God has a plan for him.

“I felt like I felt what he felt even though it didn’t happen to me. It hurt me as much as it hurt him so it was eye-opening.”

The Irish will look towards Smith and Councell to fill Spond’s role as the coverage linebacker. Smith, Notre Dame’s prized recruit a year ago, saw most of the reps during practice Saturday. Kelly said, however, both will see a lot of playing time.


Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu