Woodbridge defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand, rated by Rivals.com as the top recruit in the Class of 2014, announced last week that he will choose his collegiate football home on his 18th birthday — Nov. 14.
But the decision between three of the preeminent programs in college football — Alabama, Florida and Michigan — is only one intriguing story line of his senior season.
The Post has been granted unfettered access to Hand, his family and the Woodbridge Vikings for the upcoming season. Video journalist Brad Horn will follow the 6-5, 260-pound standout both on and off the field, giving an inside look at the challenges facing a top recruit juggling school, football and his senior year. The new series is titled “First and 17.”
As a 17-year-old senior at Woodbridge, Hand is also preparing for his final academic year at the 2,600-student high school, one that he hopes will put him on track to major in sports marketing at whichever university he selects. On the field, Hand will face sky-high expectations while he attempts to guide a talented Vikings team led by first-year coach and former All-Met Karibi Dede on a deep playoff run. Meantime, he’s still intent on enjoying just being himself and enjoying his last year of high school.
“I want them to see how hard I work, how bad I want it and how dedicated I am,” Hand said. “I hope they see that I’m a straight up guy. What you see is what you get.”
Starting on Friday, Aug. 23, The Post will publish weekly “First and 17″ video chapters on washingtonpost.com highlighting different aspects of Hand’s life and the roles of those around him. The videos will include game highlights from the week before, interviews and much more as Horn track’s Hand’s day-to-day life.
“There’s so much going on in Woodbridge that it’s been tough to know where to point the camera,” Horn said. “Not only are Da’Shawn and his family in this totally exciting and bizarre situation, but the Woodbridge team has a brand new coaching staff and they’re trying to work out all these kinks on the fly: dreams are colliding with reality, relationships are evolving in real time. I have no idea what’s going to happen from day to day. It’s pretty raw stuff.”
The video series will be accompanied by a series of stories from the sports and education desks, profiling Hand and examining the pressures he faces, and taking a broader perspective on college recruiting and the academic lifestyle of a top national recruit.
Starting the 23rd, you can follow along at washingtonpost.com/Firstand17 and track and discuss the series on Twitter using the hashtag, #Firstand17.