Legacy lives on

Colleton County's Norman Hand Jr. (right) is the son of former NFL star Norman Hand.

Some 25 years ago, Walterboro High School's Norman Hand was a 6-3, 270-pound tight end terrorizing opposing defenses across the Lowcountry.

Hand eventually grew into a 300-pound defensive tackle, went to junior college, and was a two-year starter for Mississippi. He was a fifth-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 1995 and spent nine years at the highest level, playing for five NFL teams before retiring in 2004.

Hand returned to Walterboro after retirement but died of a heart attack in 2010.

The Hand football legacy, however, continues. Now roaming the fields of Colleton County High School is Norman Hand Jr., a 6-3, 235-pound junior defensive end.

"I'm glad I am able to live here and play here, to follow in my dad's footsteps here," Hand said. "It was important for me because I have heard a lot of stories about how good he was when he played here. It's not the same school, but it basically is the same. It's special for me to be here."

Hand began playing for the varsity as a freshman and continued to develop last season. He also continues to grow into his body and projects as a Division I prospect on the defensive line.

Athletics comes naturally for Hand, whose mother was a basketball player at Mississippi. The memory of his father and the encouragement from his mother help Hand stay focused on being a successful player.

"My mom pushes me pretty hard to be the best I can be," said Hand. "I am still learning and growing as a player. I'm trying to help my team as much as I can."

Hand is just beginning to hear from college recruiters. He is keeping an open mind but admits he does have a favorite.

"Honestly, I am open, but I do want to go to Ole Miss if the opportunity comes along," he said. "It would be nice to follow my parents there, but that's still a long ways off. I don't worry about it too much right now. I just want to improve and win games. I have a long ways to go as a player. My focus is on working hard and helping us win games."

Colleton County head coach Chris Collins was a player at Summerville when Hand's father was a star at Walterboro. In fact, Collins remembers taking the SAT sitting next to Hand and recalls him "being the biggest human being I had ever seen."

Collins says it may be unfair to compare the father and son at this stage, but adds the son will make his own name as a special player.

"Norman has great potential, a great work ethic and he has the desire to be great," said Collins. "He obviously has great bloodlines, but he also works really hard. He's such a humble and unassuming kid.

"He's pretty mature even though he still is very young. I think his father's death had a very strong impact on him and it drives him some. He has good grades, he has a great support system with his mother, and he is going to be a very good football player."