Notre Dame senior Danny Spond will have a bittersweet return home this weekend as he returns to his native Colorado to see his Irish play Air Force.
"This is one that has been circled on my calendar for a couple of years now," Spond said this week.
At this time last year, Spond was on top of the world. It was almost one year ago today that Spond intercepted a pass against BYU to clinch yet another victory and push Notre Dame to a 7-0 record.
At that point, Spond was the starting linebacker for the Irish---just months removed from a near stroke caused by severe migraines that put him in the hospital. His story was one of redemption. He was the feel good story of 2012.
This past August, with the Irish opening practices at Camp Shiloh---the migraines returned and were worse than ever.
"It took me a full month, month and a half to recover from this one with body strength. It definitely took a while but thankfully I recovered."
Spond had to make a choice about his long term well being. In August, he made the very difficult decision to retire from playing football.
"I've learned when it comes to migraines and such, there is no exact cause since everyone is so different," Spond explains. "For me personally, I feel football had something to do with it. I don't know what. Obviously its an easy correlation."
Since stepping off the field as a player, Spond hasn't missed a single practice or team meeting. He's turned into a coach for the Irish linebackers.
"I told myself I had two options," Spond says. "I can either give in to defeat and let it define me or I can overcome it and beat it and really show people that regardless of physical ailments, you can still be the best you can--at whatever you want to do."
Spond's worked directly with freshman Jaylon Smith who has taking over for Danny at outside linebacker. Smith has really started to come into his own.
"Last week when Jaylon got his interception I can understand what a coach's high is now," Spond relays with a big smile. "Being able to coach something during the week and have him execute it, is something that's pretty rewarding for me."
Spond really enjoys coaching. It could be a long term thing. Where ever the path takes him, he's ready.
"I'm on a man of faith," he says. "Knowing that everything happens for a reason. Whatever the reason may be, I know it's what is best for me--is what I fall back on and find peace with to understand this wasn't what was in my plan and I'm excited to find out what is next."
Notre Dame and Air Force will kickoff at 5pm Eastern on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.