At 7:15 a.m., Da’Shawn Hand walked into the library at Woodbridge High School, took his seat, second from the left at the long table reserved for the Vikings’ eight signees, and closed out a recruiting process that started in earnest more than three years ago.
Well, sort of.
“I actually have to go home and get [my national letter of intent], because [my dad Sharif Hand] mixed up the papers,” Hand said. “The real letter is at home still.”
After the actual fax was sent, the Alabama signee could finally exhale.
“It feels amazing [being done with recruiting],” Hand said. “It feels great. I’m so happy that it’s over. Now it’s time to just focus on school, training, work and being a kid. That’s it.”
Ranked as the nation’s top recruit by Rivals.com, Hand used his package of power and speed to blow past consistent double teams and rack up 16 sacks this past fall. The All-Met Defensive Player of the Year led Woodbridge to an appearance in the Virginia 6A South playoffs, where the Vikings nearly knocked off No. 1 seed Varina. Hand, a three-time All-Met and Under Armour All-American, racked up more than 30 offers before committing to Alabama on live television in December.
Flanked by former teammates and Alderson Broadus (Division-II) signees Josh Griffin and Joe Hurst, Hand looked every bit the part of a high school senior, cracking up to jokes and periodically checking his iPhone. But the vaunted defensive end has been forced to mature quickly during the recruiting process.
The most important lesson was “knowing who I could trust,” Hand said. “That was about it. Everybody shows their true colors once the offers start coming in, when a little success comes. Because everybody thinks you’re going to the NFL, when you’re offered a scholarship.”
He’s eminently aware of what he’s joining at Alabama, querying reporters for status updates on prized and still-up-for-grabs recruits Damien Mama and Malachi Dupre.
“We have the number one class, I know all the guys, and we just keep adding on guys,” he said. “If we get those two, that will seal the deal right there.”
The stress is shared by groups of college staffers around the country, no doubt hunched around fax machines. Hand’s recruiter, Lance Thompson, reached out by phone one last time this morning even though the All-Met Defensive Player of the Year’s commitment was never in doubt.
“He said ‘Are you ready to do this,’ Hand recounted. “I said yeah. He said ‘I’m proud of you.’”
Here was Hand arriving at Wednesday’s bright and early ceremony at Woodbridge.
“For real, I was focused on this bow tie,” Hand said, referring to the Crimson-colored accoutrement he wore to Wednesday’s ceremony. “I tied a bow tie by myself, for the first time. I watched a little video on YouTube, and I know how to tie one now.”
Check out Episode 13: Shock the World, as it offers an inside look at Hand on the day he committed to Alabama.
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