For being arguably the top prospect in the country from the 2014 class, Da’Shawn Hand isn’t talked about a whole lot, and that’s exactly how he wants it. As Hand prepares for his senior season at Woodbridge Senior High School in Virginia, he has managed to lay low this summer despite being one of the most coveted prospects in the nation. I was lucky enough to catch up with Da’Shawn to ask him about his summer, visit plans, and timetable among other things.
So how has your summer been going? What camps have you attended and how do you think you performed at those camps?
I went to two camps this summer, I went to The Opening and the Rivals 5-Star Challenge in Chicago. I think I did pretty well man, it was a lot of fun. I went for the gear, for the experience, and just to meet a lot of people and make some good connections for a lifetime.
I read somewhere that you didn’t even lose a rep for a few days at the Rivals challenge?
Yeah, I didn’t! That was at the Rivals camp and I was ballin! (Laughs) When I went to The Opening, at first it was really cool, but I got a little camped-out and by the end of it I was definitely ready to just focus on my season.
With football being such a huge part of your life year-round, how has your summer been as far as non-related football activities goes?
It’s been good man, just been chillin’ with family, seeing my family, hanging out with my friends, and just traveling. Oh, and I’ve been…even though it has to do with football a little bit, I’ve been helping out and coaching kids in little kid camps.
When do you start practice for your senior year and what have you done to prepare yourself for a senior season that is going to be very closely watched by a lot of people?
We start practicing August 1st. You know it’s always possible to get better. I’ve been training like a dog. I’ve been doing cross-fit training, I’ve been doing yoga. I do a lot of running in a gas-mask, I’ve just been doing a lot of things to improve in as many areas as I can.
I talked with your coach about how you decided to lay low a little bit with the recruiting aspect and just focus on getting ready for your season. How come?
Yeah, and honestly I think that was the smartest decision I’ve made with my recruitment. I just wanted to lay low. I haven’t really talked to any coaches or anything, maybe once in a while I’ll call them but I have really been focusing on myself and just working.
With all the work you’ve put in what are your goals for your last year in high school, team-wise and individually?
Well of course team-wise I just want to get to the state championship and win it, I want a ring. I want to go out on top. My individual goals are, I want have over 100 tackles, 40 or more tackles for loss and 30 sacks.
Pretty lofty, you think you can get there?
You mentioned your recruitment a little bit but that you did take it off this summer, but how has that been going? Same top 3? Other coaches still hounding you? Just give me an insight as to how it goes for you.
Yeah my top 3 is still the same, Alabama, Florida, and Michigan. Other coaches still try to recruit me for sure, but I really don’t know about it. Me and Coach Harris, we have a system. When I was younger I would talk to all the college coaches as much as possible you know? I told a lot of coaches that I was interested and found out their interest and started to get offers. Then after that we started doing our research. Then after the research was done, he wouldn’t tell me to cut off any schools or anything, he would just say to start chopping my list down, take my time, give me advice. It was fun during my sophomore year, I got like 50 offers or something, it was crazy. The summer leading up to my junior year, that’s when it got like really hectic and it’s been pretty hectic ever since. That’s why I cut it down to three, it’s gotten easier and easier.
How much do you pay attention to the stuff that’s written about you? With all the articles, blogs, Twitter, rankings, videos, etc…how much do you pay attention to it and what is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen about yourself?
Honestly this year, I don’t really care about all of that stuff. When I was younger, like during my freshman and sophomore year it was really cool being told I was the #1 player in the nation and all that, but then during my junior year I really stopped paying attention to it because I mean everyone is good. I mean the top 100 kids in the nation are all top-notch athletes, I really don’t see a need to rank them and they are all going to play in college. As far as untrue stuff, all the time! (Laughs) I don’t really say anything about it, I just let them do them. That’s how they make their paycheck I guess, I don’t really care. One time when I went on a visit someone wrote that the school was now my top school and that they had nothing to worry about, that I was locked. I was like, I never said that? That doesn’t even sound like me. So yeah, there are always things about me that just aren’t true.
What have the Michigan coaches told you about a specific position? Have they discussed where and how they’d like to use you on defense?
Michigan has told me that they want me at end. That’s all, they didn’t really say what side. They like to mix it around and use different combinations. Alabama said they want me to be a JACK kind of like Courtney Upshaw was. Florida was like Michigan, they want me to play just the end since they’d like to mix it up a lot.
I remember watching a video interview you did where you seemed to get really excited about a certain professor at Michigan. Tell me what was so different, unique, or special about that professor to get a reaction like that from you.
That dude was amazing! (Laughs) Goodness, gracious! He just blew us away. I can’t pronounce his last name, (laughs) he has like a long last name, but he just….oh my goodness! Just the way he presented everything was amazing. He talked about what we’re going to learn, he told us that it’s not going to be easy. It even made my dad want to go back to school again, it was just wild, it was insane.
So as your season begins and fall is getting close, what are your plans for your official visits?
Right now I know for sure I’ll visit my top 3 schools but other than that I don’t really know.
Your official visit for Michigan is against Notre Dame for the Under the Lights II game. What are your expectations for the game itself?
I have never been to a game at Michigan so I just want to see how the crowd is, the whole atmosphere, how it feels on a gameday, what does the town do, you know those little things. I also want to see how the coaches face adversity.
So you’ve got your top 3, you have a basic idea about your official visits. What are going to be the deciding factors when you finally decide to commit?
Just my personal evaluation I guess, that’s all I can really tell you. There are so many things that I think about and I just keep that personal you know?
It’s been made public that you have a bit of a relationship with Jabrill Peppers, is that at all something that might factor in to your decision?
Oh, that’s my man! He’s cool, he’s cool people.
How about your decision timeline? Do you have an idea when you are going to commit?
Nothing has really changed. Whenever I feel like the time is right I am going to commit. I want to do it before December but whenever it feels right, it’s right.
Commitments these days can get pretty crazy. How do you plan on doing it? You seem pretty humble and don’t necessarily need the limelight, so how’s it going to go down?
I’m going to be at my school, in the auditorium or in the gym or wherever it needs to be. I’m just going to do it the classic way. I’m not going to have the three hats, I’m just going to have one hat and announce it, and that’s about it.
Talking with Da’Shawn was a pleasure and he’s another testament to the types of kids that Coach Hoke and staff are trying to recruit. Not only is he immensely talented but he genuinely cares about his education and was a really pleasant kid to talk to. He didn’t really dodge any questions which is refreshing, but he didn’t take the Jabrill question completely head-on. He perked up about him when I asked, but he didn’t mention at all if playing with Jabrill would factor into his decision. One thing I did notice, and I don’t know if it was a Freudian Slip or if it was nothing, but he spoke about the professor at Michigan as if he has already decided that he will be his teacher. The fact that a non-football related experience has made that much of an impact on him has got to be a great thing. I expect his official visit against Notre Dame to make a big impact on him and honestly wouldn’t be shocked if he thought about committing while in Ann Arbor for his first game at The Big House among that atmosphere and many other recruits and commits.