ND Notebook: Spond's number a tribute to Columbine victims

ND Notebook: Spond's number a tribute to Columbine victims
January 3, 2013, 11:00 pm
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JJ Stankevitz

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Danny Spond was in second grade when two students opened fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killing 13. He would later graduate from Columbine, where he wore No. 4. At Notre Dame, he chose to wear No. 13 to honor those killed on April 20, 1999 in his hometown.

"I play for a greater understanding of the game," Spond said.

Spond's connection to Columbine led him to be asked about the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, to which he said only time can help heal a community from such a horrible event.

"It brought us together, it brought the community together," Spond added of the tragedy his hometown experienced. "It really built a society, an area that takes care of each other."

More on Manti: Te'o finally decompressed from awards tour

Becoming college football's most decorated player in a single season took its toll on Manti Te'o last month, with the linebacker crisscrossing the nation to receive a slew of honors while his team began practicing for the BCS Championship. But with finals and that tour over, Te'o has been able to return to his refuge on the field.

"Football is my sanctuary where I feel most at home, and when I'm with my guys, when I'm with my coach, that's my comfort zone and that's where I want to be," Te'o said. "I was just glad to finally get back from that week of just traveling, and (get) to spend the rest of my time with my guys."

Te'o crossed paths with Barrett Jones in Houston for the Lombardi Award presentation, and the Alabama center noted how well he thought Te'o dealt with all the attention.

"I've just been very impressed with the way he's handled himself," Jones said. "Talk about fame, obviously, everyone in the world knows who Manti Te'o is. And he really just handles that with such grace, treats kids the right way and is just nice to everyone. I've really enjoyed meeting him."

The tour didn't beat the life out of Te'o, either, as defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has seen an even more determined version of Heisman Trophy runner up.

"Manti has actually practiced harder the last week since the award circuit, practiced harder than he has all year long," Diaco said. "So he himself has raised his game even just as early as last week and leaving up to the travel here to South Florida."

Notes: "He's coach Saban out there"

The phrase "game manager" has often been used to describe Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, sort of a backhanded compliment for someone who won't win a game, but certainly won't lose it.

It's one Alabama center Barrett Jones and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier didn't exactly agree with -- "I know what A.J. does for our offense, and he does a lot, and it's much more than just managing," Nussmeier said -- but it's also one that may not be altogether backhanded with the explanation provided by Diaco and Te'o.

"The quarterback conducts the game just like if Nick Saban was taking the snap himself," Diaco said, referring to McCarron. "He doesn't put the team in bad spots. He doesn't make poor decisions with the ball. He's working the game and managing the game and putting the offense in the appropriate plays it's really an incredible organization to watch offensively led by the quarterback."

Te'o concurred with that assessment -- and hey, Saban's a revered coach on the cusp of a dynasty at Alabama, so if that's a shrouded diss, it's not a bad one.

"He's coach Saban out there," Te'o said. "He doesn't make silly mistakes. He's their general on offense, and he does a really good job at it."

Recruiting roundup: ND commit Hunter Jr. suffers devastating injury

Yahoo's Prep Rally has the video, which shows class of 2013 wide receiver commit Torii Hunter, Jr., running a normal route in practice and falling awkwardly in severe pain. The injury was diagnosed as a broken left femur, with a reported recovery time of 6-8 months.

At the best, Hunter Jr. could join Notre Dame for fall camp, but at the worst he won't be 100 percent until after the season starts (which still could be the case regardless of if he returns to practice in six months).

"This was a very sobering, horrible moment, because this is a good kid," Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said. "... I'm not talking about him like his career is over, but I'm just talking about Tuesday that whole practice changed for everybody who saw that."