Da’Shawn Hand wasn’t always known for football. In fact, his first claim to athletics fame came as an eighth grade wrestler for Woodbridge High’s varsity squad. He went undefeated and won a regional championship even before he set foot in a classroom on the high school level.
Woodbridge (Va.) defensive end Da'Shawn Hand is the top prospect in the Class of 2014 according to 247Sports.
That changed quickly during his freshman football season. He was called up to the varsity football team during the preseason and then four games into the season, he was pressed into action after the team’s starting defensive tackle was suspended.
“I was known for wrestling at this school before I was known for football,” Hand said. “The first play I was in, I had a sack and nobody has been able to beat me out since,” Hand said.
Now, shortly after a sophomore season in which he racked up 84 tackles and 21 sacks, the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Hand has evolved from budding star to certain household name. He holds close to 30 early verbal scholarship offers, including many of the nation’s top powers and because of his high ceiling, current baseline skill set, offer list, character, on-field dominance and excellent athleticism, Hand is the nation’s No. 1 prospect for the Class of 2014 according to 247Sports.
“All of this attention just makes me hungrier,” Hand said. “I just want to get better and better. I want to improve my game, my quickness, my speed, technique, everything.”
Wrestling helped lay the groundwork for Hand to be elite in those areas at such a young age.
“In the long run, it helped me out for football,” he said. “It helped me when I line up to do one-on-ones, with quick hands, body control and balance. It helped me get in great shape, of course, but it also taught me just to be patient. I think in football, you have to be patient. Reaction is key in both wrestling and football.”
Perhaps it also laid the groundwork for Hand’s competitiveness. He routinely stays after practice to get in extra work with his coaches and has frequented camps and combines this spring.
“People wonder why I go to combines,” he said. “People think combines are for you to get looks and to get exposure. With me, I go out there just to compete and see where my technique is. That’s what combines do, they test your speed, your agility, your footwork and body control, balance, etc., in the one-on-ones.”
Hand grew up in Philadelphia, living in the City of Brotherly Love until he was in the fifth grade, but is a fan of the team up I-95- the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.
“I like their defensive ends like (former Giant) Michael Strahan, (current Giants) Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Chris Canty in the middle. Their defensive line is so strong.”
Hand has approximately 29 verbal scholarship offers to his credit. Just this week, Alabama and Ohio State were among the nearly 10 schools that stopped by Woodbridge to check in.
“I don’t let it get to my head,” Hand said. “If I see the coaches here, I will say hi and then after that I just get back to class.”
Hand is adamant he will not start the recruiting process and begin to look into potential college programs until his junior year. Academics will be huge in his decision. Currently, he believes would like to major in Engineering, but also is considering Business, a subject he may minor in even if he pursues the Engineering degree.
“Right now, I am just taking it slow,” Hand said. “I am not going to rush things. I am just enjoying being a kid. After Sept. 1, the coaches can start contacting me, so I am just going to enjoy my free time until then.”
Hand did visit Virginia Tech for the Hokies spring game and had good things to say about that visit. He also plans to camp at Alabama this summer and perhaps return to Blacksburg for camp, but those are the only two recruiting-oriented events that are on the schedule as of now.
Hand is one of three five-star prospects in the state of Virginia for the 2014 class, joining fellow defensive lineman Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Indian River) and safety Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside) in the Top 25. Hand and Brown have met at various camps this spring and have struck up a friendship.
“He’s a cool guy,” he said.
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