For any other school, five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand would have been the prized recruit and the cornerstone of its recruiting class. Not at Alabama, though. Not when the Crimson Tide signed 19 players in the ESPN 300, including 12 in the top 75. The Woodbridge, Va., native is just another signee at Alabama, and that’s the way he likes it.
This week, we caught up with the nation’s No. 6 player to talk about the Tide class and where he fits in. He’s expected to enroll in June.
Q: What’s life been like since you signed with Alabama?
Da’Shawn Hand: Peaceful. Everything has been good. I’ve been able to relax and be a normal kid. You don’t get phone calls that often anymore, except from coaches every now and again, but no media attention. Just doing what you usually do before you were noticed.
Q: You committed on Nov. 14, your 18th birthday. When did you know for sure you wanted to go to Alabama?
Hand: It was the night before my decision, so about 12 hours before my actual decision. I was driving to Wendy’s to get something to eat. I just thought about the overall picture. I saw the big picture and why not go where you can compete for a national championship and still study your passion which is civil engineering?
Q: Alabama finished with the No. 1 recruiting class. How good can this class be?
Hand: It’s a good class. We just have to see how everybody turns out in camp. Once the pads come on, then we’ll really see how good the class is. So far, all of us get along. We’re all cool, very down-to-earth. Nobody’s cocky or thinks they’re like a big fish in a small pond anymore. Everybody knows they have to start all over. I think, for the whole class, everybody just needs to work hard and get in where you fit in.
Q: AJ McCarron made a comment recently about how some of these five-star guys have a sense of entitlement. How do you avoid that?
Hand: Honestly, if you don’t have it -- if you don’t have that mentality that you’re good -- if you’re just naturally humble, then the transition will be easy. But even for those guys who think that because they’re a five-star [recruit], they deserve to do this, practice is right around the corner. It will be a wake-up call.
Q: I assume you have more of a humble attitude coming in?
Hand: Of course. Like I said before, you kind of have to be real with yourself. I’m 18, young, and I just happen to have God-given talent, but I still have to get coached up and fine tune my techniques and skills. Everybody’s big, fast and strong. I realize that. You just have to be on your A game. I’m prepared for the worst. I just want to go in and make an impact. That’s all.
Q: What’s the position or role Alabama sees you playing at the next level?
Hand: That I have no clue. I don’t know where I’m going to play the most -- either defensive end or Jack linebacker. I’m just preparing for both. Like I said, I just want to get in where I fit in. If they want me at Jack, I’ll do it. If they want me at defensive end, I’m going to do it.
Q: Have they mentioned to you the chance to play early?
Hand: They present an opportunity. You just have to take it. I mean everybody has an equal opportunity. You just have to work hard and earn it.
Q: What are you doing now to prepare yourself for Alabama?
Hand: Track season just started, so we’re doing tryouts right now. (Groans) I’ve been running so much. But I’m doing a lot of core things. I do pool workouts in the morning, now I’ll start track, and days that I don’t have track during the week, I just do my workouts.