MOBILE — The way things look aren’t always reality.
When senior defensive end Da’Shawn Hand was lying down on the grass inside Bryant-Denny Stadium at the end of September, it appeared his season might be concluded. Hand was coming from the right end when an Ole Miss tight end dove at his left knee and it buckled sending his nearly 290-pound body to the field. As he was carted off the field, it indeed appeared he wouldn’t see the field for the rest of the season.
But things aren’t always as they seem. He missed only a few game with a knee sprain instead of the more serious knee ligament tear.
Hand returned to his team and wrapped up his senior season with a national title.
He came to Alabama ranked at one time the No. 1 player in his recruiting class. But nothing came easy for Hand, who had to wait his turn behind the likes of Jonathan Allen and company.
Now he’s at the Senior Bowl trying to show he’s worthy to be a draft pick by an NFL team.
“My senior season, just overcame a lot of adversity and it paid off in the end,” Hand said. “Right now just consistency. I have to work on my consistency. Being consistent. And then working on hands and technique, being explosive down in and down out.”
The Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage said Hand participating was the correct decision.
“I think this is a big stage for Da’Shawn,” Savage said. “This year, it was going to be his big breakout season. It happened but it didn’t happen in a lot of ways. He had the knee sprain and missed some time. He can really showcase his skill here as a one-on-one pass rusher. So I think that he can answer some of the questions maybe the scouts have on him coming out of fall. I think this is a really important week for him, and I’m glad he accepted the invite to come down. I thought it would be a huge mistake not to play down here.”
Hand, Raekwon Davis and Da’Ron Payne were the starters for a unit that had lost of high-end defensive line talent over the last two years. As such, there were many college football analysts who doubted the unit could be as productive. The group largely paid that talk no mind.
“It’s kind of like an unspoken motivation,” Hand said. “You know that people are doubting you. You know that you have to prove people wrong. You know you’re kind of like the underdog so you just have to go out and show and prove.”