Spond cherishing chance at BCS title

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (AP) - Notre Dame linebacker Danny Spond values every chance he gets to be on the football field.

That might sound trivial. After all, doesn’t every player feel that way?

Probably so, but then again, few players have seen what Spond has seen.

The native of Littleton, Colo., was a star quarterback at Columbine High, where a school shooting took the lives of 13 people in 1999. Now a linebacker, he wears jersey No. 13 to honor those victims and has been deeply affected by the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., last month.

In August, he feared he might lose his football career when a migraine headache struck him so severely that he was unable to move parts of his body.

Now he’s about to take the field with a national championship at stake.

“This is the biggest stage that we’ll ever play on,” Spond said.

No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) meets No. 2 Alabama (12-1) on Monday night at Sun Life Stadium, a matchup of storied programs that will collide and decide the BCS national champion. Spond is expected to start for the Irish, who enter the game with the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense, just a smidge ahead of the Crimson Tide.

Alabama is favored, which to the Irish isn’t exactly a relevant point.

“In our eyes, this is a step down from the Super Bowl,” Spond said. “Underdog or if you’re favored in these games, that doesn’t really matter.”

And if anyone on the field Monday night can speak on what really matters, it might be Spond.

He knows what the Columbine shootings meant to his community, both then and now. He grieved for the victims of the school massacre in Newtown that took the lives of 26 students and teachers at an elementary school.

“I can’t express how horrible of an event that is,” Spond said Thursday, when he was among a small group of Notre Dame players who met with reporters in advance of the title game. “Going through that … unspeakable. It’s hard to explain. It’s hard to put into words. I don’t know what to say about it, other than time will heal. It did our community and I know it will there.”

Spond relies on faith and makes no secret of it, using his beliefs to get him through tough moments, on the field and off.

When he was hospitalized in August, football wasn’t his concern. Walking was.

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