Da’Shawn Hand beamed with pride. Four sacks, double-digit tackles. Not a bad performance, the Woodbridge High School standout defensive end thought to himself, following the 7-0 loss to eventual Cardinal District champion Hylton.
And yet, when he arrived home later that Friday night to tell his dad about his success, Sharif Hand had only thing to say to his son: “Hey four-sack man, go sack that kitchen.”
Talk about the game? Maybe later. Discuss ways to improve his game? Perhaps at some point.
But right then, Hand was not the star-studded lineman with a horde of Division I schools in hot pursuit of his services. He was just another teenager with chores to do. And this night it was cleaning up the dishes.
Hand wanted to still exalt in the afterglow of his stats from that game, but his father was having none of it. There was a time and place for everything and right now, it was time to fulfill domestic responsibilities.
Hand was not thrilled about doing the dishes or doing any type of chore for that matter. But he never questioned it. He understood the purpose of his father’s request.
“That’s what keeps me grounded,” Hand said.
For all of Hand’s accomplishments, perhaps nothing speaks more to who he is than his character.
There’s no question that his size, speed and strength are making him one of the most sought after recruits in the nation.
He’s so polished already as a player that Mike Farrell, the national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, projects Hand will be the top recruit for the class of 2014 when national rankings are released after the season.
“I don’t see anyone rarer at his position. He’s got great size. He doesn’t look big, but he’s long and lean,” said Farrell, who has been ranking players for 12 years. “He’s very, very quick and explosive off the ball. His balance is amazing.”
Just have Hand shake your hand and you will realize how strong he is. It’s a firm shake, but Hand doesn’t just grip your hand. He consumes it to the point that it feels like your flesh is being crushed into a ball.
If he does that in just a simple gesture, imagine what he’s doing to opponents trying to block him down after down. It’s a challenge to say the least to keep the junior locked up.
But work ethic, attitude and behavior play a big role in Hand’s appeal as well.
“That’s another important thing,” Farrell said. “We’ve had some No. 1 recruits who were not the best character kids in years past. He’s a kid, barring anything happening, you aren’t going to have issues with. He’s a yes-sir, no-sir kid who you will never see in the newspaper for the wrong reasons.”
Much of Hand’s approach stems from his family and in particular his father.
Sharif Hand is the opposite of the typical stage parent, who is involved in too many aspects of their child’s life, leaving one to wonder who is actually making the decisions.
Instead, Sharif Hand lays low in the background by keeping priorities in check. He wants to help his son without orchestrating the process.
“My father he just kind of sits back. He doesn’t want to talk to any college coaches at this moment until my senior year,” Hand said. “I’m totally fine because it’s not my dad’s decision. My dad told me this, he was like ‘it’s not his decision.’ He’s not going to play anywhere. All he has to do is drive to the game and that’s just a couple of dollars. But hey, that’s better than spending $50,000 on an education that I’m getting for free.”
Unwilling to take his athletic gifts for granted, Hand works tirelessly at improving his game.
It’s something Farrell witnessed himself, starting with seeing Hand at the U.S. Army National Combine Jan. 5-7 in San Antonio.
At a Nike combine in Baltimore in the spring, Hand was doing some one on one drills, a couple of which he got beaten on. When Farrell saw Hand at the Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta June 22-24, he saw a different player.
“His work ethic is ridiculous,” Farrell said. “When I saw him in Atlanta, he already had a new move.”
After Atlanta, Hand attended The Opening in Beaverton, Ore. It was an invite-only event that brought together 152 of the nation’s top high school prospects, including Hand, who was one of three juniors there. Slowed by an ankle injury, Hand didn’t participate the last day. But it was clear even then, he had made significant strides in his game.
“He learned a lot going up against older kids,” Farrell said.
Hand is honored that he’s being considered as the No. 1 recruit for the class of 2014, but he doesn’t dwell on it. All the articles and recruiting mail he receives goes straight to his grandmother, who puts everything away in a scrapbook.
“It’s good to know all your hard work is paying off. But at the same time, it makes you a target so it gives me the drive to work even harder and do things the next guy wouldn’t do,” Hand said.
Hand is in no rush to make a decision. He said he would like to narrow his college choices down to 10 after his junior season. The key thing for him is controlling the process rather than letting it control him.
“Coaches can’t force you to talk to them,” Hand said. “They want you. You don’t want them. They need you. You do not need them. If you have multiple scholarships, then you go someplace else.”
If there’s anything Hand would prefer not doing beyond chores, it’s playing on the offensive line. In his football career, Hand has only played defense.
But with his size plus Woodbridge’s need for offensive linemen, the move was inevitable.
When asked about playing offensive tackle, Hand burst out laughing and shook his head.
“If it was my choice, I would not be playing offensive line,” Hand said. “I wish high schools could recruit. I would go out there and find somebody else to play offensive tackle.”