SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Type "Danny Spond" into Google and the third suggested result that comes up is "Danny Spond stroke."
Two months ago, Notre Dame's corner of the Internet was lighting up with rumors the junior linebacker had suffered a stroke, as whispers about the unknown condition that forced Spond into a hospital for a few days grew louder. Spond didn't have a stroke, though -- he had about as severe a migraine as possibly imaginable.
"That's definitely the worst pain I've ever experienced in my life," Spond said. "I would rather take a lot of injuries than a migraine, that's for sure. Not only scaring me to death with all the symptoms that came along with it, but just the absolute excruciating pounding I felt for a week, just constant.
"There are very few things that I felt that were that painful. I would never wish anything upon anybody that bad."
Spond didn't have any of the telltale migraine warning signs, and said doctors still don't know what caused it. He missed most of fall camp and Notre Dame's first two games, slowly working his way back into Notre Dame's defensive plans. But once he got that first hit out of the way, Spond knew he was ready to return.
"Mentally, I'm at a point where i'm fully relying on God to take care of me out there," Spond said. "Games like this, when we played Stanford and Michigan and Oklahoma this week, they're real physical games, there's a lot of head-banging. I've got all my faith in God."
Spond started against Michigan State and has taken off from there, recording 23 tackles, two passes broken up and an interception as Notre Dame's "dog" linebacker in its 3-4 defense.
"It definitely didn't start out the way I wanted to -- no one wants to start off the season watching, that's for sure, just being like a coach on the sideline," Spond explained. "But I knew once I got my chance to get back in there, once I could finally heal up, there was nothing that was going to stop me because I got a second chance, basically. That's just been my mentality since I returned."
A prep safety (and quarterback) in Littleton, Colo., Spond has had to adjust to playing a position that requires him to not only drop back in coverage but also to attack the line of scrimmage to stop running plays. He said that transition from pass coverage to run stopping has been the most difficult challenge to the position, but with experience has come confidence.
"I've gotten pretty comfortable with it now, and I feel like I know it better than anyone," Spond said. "It's taken time, there's no doubt about it, it's a tough position that has a lot of responsibilities and jobs. But the more you do it the better you get at it."
As BYU tried to mount a comeback last weekend, Spond broke up a key pass and intercepted Riley Nelson's final throw of the game, sealing a 17-14 win for Notre Dame. Brian Kelly was quick to point out his pass-coverage ability after the game, noting Spond stays on the field for Notre Dame's nickel package as a cornerback.
"Kid has been tremendous," Kelly added."He's been an unsung player on our defense and we appreciate him.I'm not saying you guys don't, but he's just played really, really well for us and he's not even coming off the field."
The next challenge for Spond comes against a powerful Oklahoma offense that's torched Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas for 156 points in its last three games. It's the first time a top-10 Notre Dame team has faced a top-10 opponent in nearly six years, and it carries with is legitimate national championship implications for the Irish. While Notre Dame's mantra may be that every game is big from here on out, this one does carry more weight.
"It's exciting," Spond said. "This is why you play the game, a top-10 matchup like this. It's the reason you're out here. It's fun."