Danny Spond doesn’t fit the mold of a Columbine quarterback. He’s much too big for that.
At 6-feet-3, 218 pounds, Spond would be a prototype at just about any other school that doesn’t run on third-and-long and worship the beauty of the belly option.
When asked the last time he had a quarterback that size, longtime Rebels coach Andy Lowry was blunt.
But then again, the job description – lining up under center for the most dominant Class 5A football program over the past decade – has never been solely about size.
The quarterback has to develop a relationship with the famed Hogs up front, a second-sense chemistry with the running back and fullback, the ability to read the option offense and be adept enough to connect on the occasional pass.
“All the quarterbacks in the past have definitely been the 6-foot, maybe 170-, 180-pound guys,” said Spond, a junior.
After leading the Rebels to a strong summer showing at 7-on-7 camps, Spond has affirmed he is that guy.
“He’s a great athlete,” Lowry said of Spond, who played linebacker last season and moonlighted at quarterback in the first few games. “He can run, he can pass, he can do whatever ee He’s a great leader.”
Lowry has often toyed with the notion of passing more over the years, especially with baseball-strong arms in Brian Deidel, Tanner Rogers and C.J. Gillman (who was 6-1, 210 as a senior). This year Lowry feels more compelled to pass with two great receivers, Spond, and the prospect of single coverage on the outside as opponents always line up to stop the run.
Of course, throwing the ball isn’t the gravy it’s supposed to be if the ground game isn’t working.
Case in point: The Rebels got an unusual three touchdown passes from Kyler Brady in last year’s eventful state quarterfinal game against Bear Creek but lost 31-28 because their ground game never stretched its legs.
Spond, who will also play safety, said repetition is the key to getting his exchanges down with his backfield and reading his blockers. He will take more snaps out of the shotgun this season to give defenses some additional looks.
“Our linemen, our Hogs, are the hardest workers of everyone up there,” Spond said. “We get the credit, but in reality they are the guys that are really doing it.”
The Rebels return 10 seniors and will roll with an offensive line that is senior dominated. Lowry said the defensive line, which graduated three Division I players, is the most green and will have to step up. Strong linebackers (Jacob Wright and Brian Birkeness) should help with containment, but the Rebels are also expecting big things from gritty senior defensive tackle Mitch Sturm (6-1, 215), who missed much of last season because of injury.
Columbine and the five remaining Jeffco 5A schools (Arvada West, Bear Creek, Chatfield, Lakewood and Pomona) join the Westminster Wolves (a combination of Ranum and Westminster high schools) and Regis Raiders (formally of the Continental League) to form the Big 8.
That playoff loss to Bear Creek, which ended with a controversial whistle, has been a memory all the Rebels have chewed on while working out this summer.
“Everyone that was on that field remembers that taste and how tough it was on you,” Spond said. “You don’t want to experience that twice.”
While recent history remains bitter, Spond and the Rebels are looking to ride on Columbine’s bigger history, which includes four state titles in the past nine seasons, is what these Rebels are looking to add to.
Even if they don’t always fit the mold.
“Once you step on the field, you know you have so much history riding on your back,” Spond said.