These days it’s tough to find a college football team that isn’t interested in landing Da’Shawn Hand. The sophomore from Woodbridge (Va.) has more than 30 offers from Alabama to Stanford and just about everywhere in between.
It’s easy to see why. Hand is as gregarious off the field as he is ferocious on it. And on the field, he’s a sight to be seen. The 6-foot-4, 238-pound defensive end put up a ridiculous 21 sacks to go with his 84 tackles this past fall. The Vikings finished with a 6-4 record, but expectations for this season are much higher.
It’s numbers like those that have made Hand one of the most popular athletes in the Class of 2014. Following his impressive performance at the Baltimore NFTC, Hand took down Top Underclassman honors as well as an invite to The Opening at the Nike Headquarters in July, and he has some speculating he could be the nation’s No. 1 recruit next season.
None of this, however, has gotten to Hand’s head. Despite all the offers and attention, Hand says he’s still got plenty to prove. What’s left for the stellar soph? We’ll let him tell you as we Get Familiar with Da’Shawn Hand.
ESPNHS: What was your reaction when you were told you got an invite to The Opening?
Hand: I was just shocked and honored. I’ve seen clips of The Opening on YouTube and ESPN, and I was excited to be a part of it. The top 150 players in the country, and it’s Nike, so you can’t do better than that.
ESPNHS: What are some things you felt you did that impressed the coaches at the event?
Hand: My technique, footwork and balance and stuff were good. I felt pretty good, overall, but I definitely noticed what I needed to improve on.
ESPNHS: Was there one event you felt like you really shined in?
Hand: The one-on-ones, definitely, in terms of the competition. It was a good learning experience for me. I went up against some great offensive linemen.
ESPNHS: What are some things you feel like you learned from the coaches at the Baltimore event?
Hand: There was a lot. There were a lot of very, very good coaches and they influenced me a lot. There were some pass rushing techniques and a lot of just basic knowledge of the game. It was cool just to see how they look at everything and just seeing what they did. It was a nice learning experience.
ESPNHS: Your popularity has skyrocketed this summer. Do you feel like a lot has changed?
Hand: I don’t really worry about that stuff. I just try to focus on improving myself as a player, as a student and as a person.
ESPNHS: Tell us a little about your summer, what else do you have planned?
Hand: Oh man, the summer is going to be really busy. I’m going to some camps at Virginia Tech and at Alabama, and I’m headed to The Opening on July 5 … and after that, it’s back to practice to get ready for the fall season.
ESPNHS: What’s the goal for Woodbridge this season?
Hand: We want to win states, have the No. 1 defense in the state, be ranked No. 1 in scoring defense and just be dominant.
ESPNHS: Oh that’s it, huh?
Hand: Our defense has a lot of returners, and our offense is piecing things together. I think during two-a-days they’ll get that all sorted out.
ESPNHS: You’re going to be one of the leaders this fall. Is that something you’re looking forward to?
Hand: I’m definitely looking forward to seeing my team grow. A lot of people say I’m going to be the one that other teams targeted, but we have a lot of pieces on defense. If those other teams don’t worry about a lot of our other key players, they’ll get beat, and then they’ll stop worrying about me as much.
ESPNHS: What else do you have planned for this summer other than football?
Hand: Definitely hitting up some amusement parks. I love roller coasters. No matter where I go, I always have to find the best roller coasters. I even get the fast pass so I can get right to the front of the line. Maybe the next time we talk, we’ll do our interview on a roller coaster. I bet we’d be the first guys to try that.
School: Woodbridge (Va.)
Position: Defensive end
Athlete: Jason Pierre-Paul
Video Game: NCAA Football 12
Pre-Game Song: Anything that cranks with a nice bass
Christopher Parish covers high school sports for ESPNHS. Follow him on Twitter @CParishESPN.