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November 14, 2013
Hand makes the call: It's Alabama
MORE ALABAMA: TideSports.com
WOODBRIDGE, Va. -- Da'Shawn Hand, Rivals.com's No. 1 prospect in the nation, is headed to Alabama. The defensive end made the announcement in front of a packed gymnasium at Woodbridge (Va.) Senior High School, a live national television audience on NBCSports Network and live webstreaming on Rivals.com.
"I got to see to the campus outside of football at a camp, and I saw the game day atmosphere," Hand said "I know I'm not going to be No. 1 on the depth chart. It was hard, but I think I made the right decision. Roll Tide."
The commitment from Rivals.com's No. 1 player is a first for Alabama despite its run of recent dominance in the recruiting rankings.
Hand had three finalists -- Michigan, Alabama and Florida, with the Wolverines being the perceived leader. Hand took his official visit to Ann Arbor in September for Michigan's game against Notre Dame. The Wolverines beat the Irish 41-30 under the lights before a record crowd of 115,109 at Michigan Stadium. Hand visited Alabama on Oct. 25 for the Tide's 45-10 win over Tennessee, and recruiting analysts believed Hand was strongly considering the Tide after the visit. Hand's third official visit was last weekend to Gainesville, where Florida lost to Vanderbilt 34-17 in front of a disappointed Homecoming crowd.
Hand, who turned 18 on Thursday, will likely major in engineering at Alabama.
"They offer the best of both worlds," Hand said. "I'll start with academics. They have my major, civil engineering, and I met with the dean. I've seen the labs, fell in love, been on the campus. The campus life is amazing and I know half the players already.
"Why not go where there's a great possibility you can win a national championship?"
Hand's next appearance on the national stage will be at the Under Armour All-America game on Jan. 2 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"You shouldn't be shocked when Alabama gets the top recruit in the country, but this is the first time they've gotten the top recruit," said Rivals.com national scouting director Mike Farrell. "I said I wouldn't be stunned if he went there, but I'm still stunned. This is the rich get richer. Alabama is just loading up."
Former NFL coach and NBC football analyst Tony Dungy spoke with Hand before he made his decision.
"Just don't concentrate on athletics," Dungy said. "Make sure you grow as a person. If you do that, you will be in great shape. Don't look at what you're going to get, but what mark are you going to leave? If you do that, you will have a wonderful time."
Hand is the 23rd player to commit to Alabama in the 2014 class.