Bo Davis noticed right away back in 2014 a maturity level with Da’Shawn Hand that was unusual for a young college kid. Davis was the defensive line coach at Alabama at the time recruiting Hand, who was one of the top high school prospects in the country. Hand played as a true freshman, and ended up winning two national championships with the Tide.
Four years later, when the Lions were thinking about drafting Hand this offseason, Davis, who is now the Lions defensive line coach, was consulted having had a prior relationship with Hand.
It was Hand’s maturity, along with obviously a tremendous physical skillset, that Davis said would make him a good fit in Detroit under his tutelage.
“He was a mature kid,” Davis said of Hand’s early college days. “He was about business. And doing the things you watched him do you were like, ‘This guy is kind of on top of his game.’”
Davis said Hand is that same guy, and has had the exact same approach to his professional career.
“He’s a very mature guy,” Davis said. “Has been that way. It’s all business to him. It’s not like ‘it’s about me’ or anything like that. It’s about the team.”
The Lions gave up a third-round pick in next year’s draft to move up in the fourth round this year to select Hand, and the rookie defensive lineman has made that move look very good.
Hand has one of the top grades among all rookie players by Pro Football Focus, and he’s been arguably Detroit’s most consistent defensive lineman all season. He’s seventh among all defensive tackles in run-stop percentage.
But to Davis’ point about Hand’s maturity, early success like the kind Hand’s having can sometimes go to a rookie's head, maybe tricking them into believing they’ve suddenly arrived and have things figured out.
Hand is unique in the sense that when he’s asked questions about his early success, he always deflects them, and switches the narrative to the team.
Hand was asked after Sunday’s win, a game in which he finished with four solo tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, to reflect back on his first five weeks.
“I don’t think about that,” he said. “As soon as you start thinking about that you get lazy. I’m just grinding and grinding and grinding. I’m just a working man.”
It’s been Hand’s approach since Day 1, and it’s been a good one for him. He’s seen his snaps increase weekly, and is coming off a game Sunday where he played in 77 percent of the team’s snaps on defense.
He is Detroit’s fourth leading tackler (19), and has two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in just five games.
“No nonsense. Come to work,” Davis said of Hand’s approach to his job. “He is what he says, ‘I stay in my lane, I do my job and I’m working hard and trying to get better every day.’ That’s how he is. He’s going to be in his lane, work hard and do his job.”