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Spond cherishing chance at BCS title

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Spond cherishing chance at BCS title

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.

Parts of Spond's left side were numb when he was struck by the migraine, which doctors originally feared was a stroke. He walked with a limp after spending about half a week in the hospital, then needed rehabilitation just so he could feel close to normal again. Football was pushed aside.

That is, until he surprised the Irish by coming back so quickly.

``We were just wondering if he would ever be able to function regularly on a daily basis,'' Irish star linebacker Manti Te'o said. ``And then for him to come out - what was it, a week and a half later? - and say `I'm going to practice,' we were like, `Oh, Danny, you can just chill, you know. This is life we're talking about, not just football. Just chill.' But he goes, `I'm going to get ready.'''

So he got ready. He finished the regular season with 38 tackles in 10 games, which doesn't sound all that impressive.

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco begs to differ.

``Danny Spond is, to me, one of the players of the year,'' Diaco said.

``To watch him battle and fight and stay positive and become the player that he has become for his teammates in 2012, he is a stalwart out there to the field. It's very hard to get a play on him in the pass game or the run game. It's just really been inspirational for me to watch and be a part of. So I'm so thankful for Danny Spond specifically in my life.''

Spond said the six-week wait for this has been easier than some might think, since it's allowed the Irish to prepare and heal.

In short, he knows his team will be ready for whatever Nick Saban and Alabama can throw Notre Dame's way on Monday night.

``They are a great team,'' Spond said. ``They are obviously in this game for a reason and they have proved that in the past couple of years. Coach Saban has built a very strong program over there, so we're preparing for their best. They'll give us their best.''

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Get to know newest Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny

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Get to know newest Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny

On Monday, with the NHL trade deadline approaching, the Washington Capitals addressed a need for blue line depth by acquiring Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a conditional third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

But before you begin to analyze how the move impacts the Capitals' outlook heading forward, lets take some time to get to know the newest member of the Caps.

Who is Michal Kempny?

Michal Kempny is a 27-year-old defenseman from the Czech Republic. He was born on Sept. 8, 1990 in Hodonin, a small town in southwestern Czech Republic near the border of Austria and Slovakia. Kempny began his hockey career playing for SHK Hodonin. Kempny knew very little english upon arriving to the NHL, but credited his girlfriend Showtime shows to helping him become more comfortable speaking the language. 

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What International Experience Does Michal Kempny Have?

Michal Kempny played professionally for HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Extraliga and Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. Kempny was a standout player on the international stage, playing for the Czech Republic U18, U20 and Men's National teams.

MORE ON THE TRADE: WHERE DOES KEMPNY FIT IN THE CAPS ROSTER

When Did Michal Kempny Make His NHL Debut?

Michal Kempny was signed to a one-year contract as an undrafted free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks in May, 2016 and made his NHL debut in October, 2016. Kempny scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 30, 2016 against Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward. Kempny appeared in 50 games for the Blackhawks during the 2016-17 season, recording two goals and six assists. The Blackhawks re-signed Kempny to a one-year extension during the offseason. Kempny played in 31 games this season before being traded to the Capitals.

What Type of Hockey Player is Michal Kempny?

Kempny is a 6-0, 194-pound defenseman with a strong left-handed shot. Known for his play on the offensive end, Kempny was never able to gain the trust of Joel Quenneville on the defensive end. But Kempny has a good bit of offensive upside, thanks to his passing skills and strong shot, which is why the Blackhawks took a flier on him in the first place and why he was an ideal trade candidate for the Capitals. But again, Kempny's size is less than ideal for a top-tier blue-liner and while he doesn't shy away from contact, he is rarely much of a physical presence. 

What Does Michal Kempny's Contract Look Like?

Michael Kempny is set to become an unrestricted free agent the the end of the 2017-18 season and has a cap hit of just $900,000.

RELATED: TROTZ REACTS TO RACIAL COMMENTS MADE BY CHICAGO FANS

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Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

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Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE