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April 21, 2012
Humble Hand has advanced game
It is bad news for the offensive lineman scheduled to attend the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge that Woodbridge (Va.) High defensive end Da'Shawn Hand didn't have more humble on-field football idols.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Hand has only played football for three seasons, but is already a standout in the Class of 2014 with nearly 20 offers. He initially wanted to be a wide receiver before dominating on the defensive line.
"My friends wanted me to play and I wanted the ball," he said. "I wanted to score touchdowns and all that, but guys like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens did all that showboating and that isn't me."
And with that a humble, defensive star was born.
Hand says his favorite team is the New York Giants and that he found a new pack of players to emulate: Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Osi Umenyiora.
"Those are my guys," he said. "They do the work and they get some spotlight but do it a little quieter."
According to his position coach, John Harris, the humility is something that separates his young star from many other players.
"He really is one of the most humble people I have been around," Harris said. "He wants to get better and he drives me to be a better coach. He also is a natural leader that makes his teammates better, too."
It has been such a fast process that Hand hasn't had the time to absorb the hype.
"It is really crazy," Hand said. "This really has been happening so fast. I thought football was going to be a hobby - something to do to keep me out of trouble and give me something to do with my friends - but it turns out it could be a business.
"I just want to stay grounded and be myself though it all."
Part of Hand remaining true to himself will be finding out where he belongs. After a freshman season on varsity, in just his second year ever playing football, Hand made 65 tackles and recorded three sacks. He upped both totals as a sophomore to 84 tackles and 21 sacks.
However humble he may be, Hand does allow himself a moment to set personal goals.
"Man, I'd like to get 30 sacks this year," he said. "That's like three a game and I think I can do it."
A trip to Atlanta and Lakewood Stadium on June 22-24 to participate in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge will be a starting point to what Hand hopes to be a strong junior campaign.
"I am excited to get there and to compete," he said. "I want to find out what I need to work on to keep getting better."
Harris said that Hand has some of the best body control of any player he has been around, but there is an area he can improve on.
"He needs to use his hands more," Harris said. "He is as good as I have seen with his right hand down or his left hand down but he knows he can beat kids and sometimes I have to get on him about using his hands.
"I have to grade him on another level, he can get the sack and on film I get after him. It is easy to beat kids that are going to be delivering pizza, but to beat kids that are on his level and have the future that he has there is still room to improve."
Hand agrees and wants the coaches at the invitation-only event to push him.
"I hope we do drills where I am using my hands," he said. "I know all those guys at the camp will be good so I won't be able to get by them without my hands."
And if he improves his hands and makes his personal goal, it will likely spell 30 times an offensive lineman wishes Hand were a wide receiver.
Mike Farrell's take
Hand could be the nation's No. 1 prospect overall in the 2014 class. I think he's better at this stage than Robert Nkemdiche was and he's on par with Jadeveon Clowney when it comes to athletic ability. He has great balance, is a superior athlete and he is so quick and agile that even when an opponent gets his hands on him, he can recover and still get to where he needs to be. He has an amazing work ethic and his footwork is flawless and I think he will dominate some of the older offensive linemen despite giving away age, experience and some pounds.