Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand delivered his highly anticipated commitment last Thursday, announcing a pledge to Alabama. The 5-star prospect had plenty of reasons to like the Crimson Tide, including three national championships in a four-year span, an abundance of recent NFL alumni, and the opportunity to play for surefire Hall of Fame coach Nick Saban.
However, it turns out off-the-field allure in Tuscaloosa may have ultimately swayed Hand's decision. 247Sports National Recruiting Director JC Shurburtt reports university and athletic administration gave the coveted playmaker key academic assurances during discussions and a campus visit.
Hand, who identified academics as a paramount factor throughout his recruitment process, apparently came away from conversations convinced that he'll be able to find desired balance between football and education at Alabama. He ultimately selected the Crimson Tide from a final mix that also included Florida and Michigan.
Shurburtt reports Hand anticipates pursuing a Civil Engineering degree at Alabama. The Woodbridge High School senior will have an ideal academic advisor when he arrives on campus: College of Engineering Dean Charles Karr.
Karr has made an impact in aerospace and mineral processing as an engineer, according to his university bio. His presence also appears to have made an impact in Hand's college choice.
The three-time Alabama graduate has authored three books, is a regular journal contributor and holds four international patents.
Many considered Michigan a slight favorite during the final stages before his decision, due in large part to the university's esteemed engineering school. Wolverines 5-star commit Jabrill Peppers may have spoken for many when he mentioned Hand's academic ambitions as an indication of a potential lean toward Ann Arbor.
"He kept stressing the importance of academics. That's why I kept saying there's a chance," Peppers told Mlive.com writer Josh Slagter in October. "If he wasn't saying anything about academics or anything like that, I would assume that he's going to go to Alabama."
In retrospect, it appears national perception of the situation may have been slightly askew. By committing to Alabama, it appears Hand feels he has found the best of both worlds.
The nation's top-ranked defender is destined for a collegiate career under the guidance of both Saban and Karr. Clearly, Hand views it as the ideal marriage of elite academic and athletic opportunities.