Heading into The Opening Da’Shawn Hand knew the list of players looking to take him down would be long. That just comes with the territory when you’re ranked the top defensive player in the country. But once again the Woodbridge, Va., star proved worthy of that distinction by besting every lineman he faced.
“I feel like I used violent hands today,” Hand said afterward. “It was just great. A lot of people just want to go against me. Like I (always) say, I’m right here. I’m a normal human being. You’ve got a bag, a whistle, a coach… it doesn’t matter to me (who it is that issues the challenge), I’m just competitive. I didn’t say that to be cocky or arrogant. Every athlete should have that dog in him. I feel as if I can take on the world. If you feel like that then you deserve to be playing football.”
Hand’s streak of camp dominance is so long that complacency in such settings might be his biggest foe. That said, he also thwarts that opponent routinely thanks to the consistency in his approach to every competition takes part in.
“You just keep working,” he said matter-of-factly. “You might beat this group (of competitors), but there is somebody out there that you never went against that is working twice as hard. So to beat that man you’ve got to work triple hard. You’ve just got to keep working hard. Never ever be content.”
That attitude served him well on day two of the star-studded event when the offensive proved more up to the task and actually defeated him in a few reps. True to form, he mounted an impressive response and won his final few reps. (Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for the highlights later). The only endeavor Hand feels comfortable taking time off from these days is recruiting. After narrowing his favorites to Michigan, Alabama, and Florida a few weeks back, the five-star defensive end pushed pause on the entire process. His plan has been to pick things back up in the fall when he can take official visits. The Wolverines had been angling to get him back on campus prior to that for their annual Barbecue at the Big House, but Hande doesn’t expect to be in attendance.
“I’m taking a break probably until the end of July,” he said. “That’s just how it’s going to be.”
So for now he is maintaining the status quo in his recruitment. That seemingly bodes well for the Wolverines and Crimson Tide, both of who still elicit positive reactions for the academic presentations given during his visits to their respective campuses.
“(Michigan sports marketing professor Mark Rosentraub) is the man,” Hand exclaimed. “Oh my goodness! That dude… don’t get me to ranting because you know people are going looking at this saying, ‘oh man, he loves Michigan.’ He is a good a guy. That’s what I’m rolling with. He is a good guy.”
“He blew me, my dad, and my coaching staff away,” a more subdued Hand later added. “It was a good visit.”
At Alabama the resonant academic correspondence was with the dean of the engineering school.
“He is a cool guy too. He is a football guy, that’s why. He travels with the team. He stays on the sideline… everything. That always helps out.”
With the chance for those schools to build on those experiences off in the distance, many of Michigan’s commitments continue to do their part by sending Hand positive Maize & Blue vibes. Like always, he plans to take such overtures in stride.
“They might be serious, but (to me) it’s all fun and games,” Hand stated. “We all laugh, and they’ll be like, ‘hey man, where are you going, bruh?’ I’ll be like, ‘I don’t know, bruh.’ Then we just laugh about it. Nobody ever gets mad or too serious. I think that’s how you’re supposed to take it. You’re supposed to be light-hearted.”
When August 1st rolls around he will have much less time for such exchanges. At that point his athletic focus will shift fully to fall camp and preparing for a season where he’ll have to perform and lead at a high level.
“I like to mentor a lot of young kids, so the freshmen coming in I’m ready to mentor them,” Hand stated. “The sophomores, all of the juniors, and some of the seniors too. I’m ready to take on that leadership role and we’ve got to get this championship.”
Once he achieves that goal, choosing his collegiate home will become a priority.
For the full interview, which includes Hand addressing his prior comment about having an idea about which school he’ll wind up picking, press play below.