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February 4, 2013
Junior of the Year: Da'Shawn Hand
Countdown to Signing Day
There are slew of thoughts, questions and feelings one gets when watching Da'Shawn Hand's film. Usually the first one is "WOW!" The second is "How can a guy that big move like that?" The next one is probably "Who does he remind me of?"
Not surprisingly, the answer to that last question is most likely Jadeveon Clowney. Hand would have it no other way.
"My idol is Jadeveon Clowney, so I see myself as him," Hand said. "I try to model my game after him. Obviously he is a freak of nature and a lot of people like to compare me to him, but I try to look at him as a role model and try to prepare myself to play like him."
The similarities are clear to one of Hand's coaches at Woodbridge (Va.) Woodbridge Senior, John Harris.
"Looking at the film, he reminds me of Clowney just because of the moves that Clowney has," Harris said. "(Hand) tries to model his game off of Clowney. That's who he looks at. He also looks at how Clowney uses a right- and left-handed stance. Things like that are what make him like Clowney."
With a comparison like that, it's no wonder the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Hand, Rivals.com National Junior of the Year, has countless scholarship offers. His top five, in no order, are Alabama, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia Tech, but he is expected to update his top schools in the near future.
"He has these natural physical abilities," Harris said. "What we worked at and what sets him apart from other kids is that, once he learned moves, he learned when to use them. If the offensive lineman lunged, had a big kick step or doubled him, he already knew what move he was going to use. Those are the things he learned throughout his first few years that are making him better, but as far as just running around guys, that was a gift. He already had that."
"Some things I try to take from Clowney's game are his will, the fact that he gets a lot of sacks, his hand techniques and his quickness," Hand said. "He is quicker than everybody, and he comes off the ball and nobody can block him.
"I try to do things that the average player in high school doesn't do and prepare myself for college," he said. "I love to watch the game film because you have to look at your mistakes to improve, and I love breaking down offensive linemen. I'll go over to my coach's house after some intense training, and we do cross-fit training, lift, footwork drills and watch some film. This season, I could tell if a lineman was pulling or doubling down and knew how to react to it. The game got a lot slower, I guess you could say."
While these God-given abilities and work ethic are rarely seen in high school players, Hand thinks there is something else that sets him apart from other top players.
"I think the most unique thing about me is my character," Hand said. "A lot of people say I'm really easy to get along with. I try to be like that because I don't want to be a football player that is a robot and is always about football. Sometimes you need to take yourself out of football."
While Hand started on the varsity as a freshman and received his first offer from Boston College in the spring of that year, he originally had a wrestling background.
"The majority of his freshman year, he played at nose guard," Harris said. "He was more of a wrestler coming into high school. He had good leverage, and when he learned how to use a lot of pass-rushing techniques, that's when we started moving him to defensive end to have him come off the edge.
"A lot of people come into high school and know all about the colleges and know which offers they want, but I did football for fun," Hand said. "I didn't expect anything out of it, and it's just crazy how it blew up. I don't want football to own me. I want to control everything in the recruiting process. I have a great inner circle of my father and Coach Harris, and they help keep me grounded and focused."
Players like Hand always get asked about their strengths and weaknesses. Most of the time a player's strengths are easy to name. The more interesting question is what a player thinks his own weaknesses are. Hand's answer is indicative of his work ethic, maturity and drive to be a better football player.
"I always have to improve on everything, so I don't really think about what my specific weakness is," he said. "Getting complacent or comfortable is a weakness, and I don't want to do that."
Clearly, Hand has the abilities and drive to follow the same path as Clowney. If he can get anywhere close to where Clowney is as a football player, the results could be astronomical.