TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It was clear Da’Shawn Hand did his homework. The senior defensive end has yet to start a game in his Alabama career, but sitting in front of reporters Thursday afternoon, he saw the questions coming from a mile away.
There was the inevitable query as to how he would replace former standout linemen Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson from last season’s team.
“I knew that was coming up. I was waiting on that,” Hand said with a smile. “Just technique mainly. How to use your hands. Just the playbook. When I was a younger, like a freshman, getting into the playbook, working on footwork, things like that.”
Then came individual questions on several of his fellow defensive linemen. Instead of signaling out any player individually, Hand stuck to the script, stating that the defensive line as a whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
“With the entire D-line, with the entire D-line unit, it’s just cool because there’s a lot of young guys stepping up, and I think we still have two more coming in this summer,” he said. “As a unit, we just always want to be dominant.”
But what about towering 6-foot-7 sophomore Raekwon Davis?
“He’s just working like all of us,” Hand said.
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“I am going to say the same thing I tell everyone else,” Hand said. “Everybody is just working and trying to get better.”
The defensive lineman had to stop himself from laughing as one more reporter tried in vain to ask about senior Jamar King.
“Everybody has grown, everybody,” Hand said shaking his head. “The whole defensive line group, everybody has taken their game to the next level.”
Hand’s persistence shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s what’s carried him through the past three seasons. After joining Alabama as the No. 1 player overall in the 2014 class, the 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive lineman found himself behind several future NFL players on the Crimson Tide’s depth chart.
Despite the lack of playing time, Hand said he never considered transferring, calling himself a “competitor” and stating he was always confident he’d get his opportunity at some point.
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“It was a humbling experience, but I’m glad I went through it,” Hand said. “God has no mistakes in a man’s life, so I was just riding the wave. I just kept chopping at the wood, and now’s my time.”
After tallying a combined seven sacks and 12 tackles for a loss while playing as a reserve the past three seasons, Hand has been waiting for this moment for quite a while. Still taking things one step at a time, he said he’s excited about the process of improving each day and that he’s focused on “getting better so I can reach my peak and then when the season comes showcase to everybody what I can do.”
For Hand, that opportunity to shine can’t come soon enough. So far this spring, containing that anticipation has been the only thing the defensive lineman has found hard to handle.
“Woo. Woooo. To be honest, man, I don’t even know how to answer that question,” Hand said when asked how hungry he was to prove himself. “That’s how hungry I am. It’s immeasurable, for real.”