The NFL Draft is the culmination of a football player’s dreams. The two-a-days, the film study, the seemingly endless reps in the weight room—being selected in the draft is proof that it was all worth it.
And that’s why it’s incredible that Shaquem Griffin was snapped up by the Seahawks in the fifth round over the weekend. Shaquem is a linebacker from UCF—my alma mater—who just became the first player in NFL history with one hand. It’s a truly phenomenal story of perseverance and heart.
Shaquem was born with a genetic defect called Amniotic Band Syndrome, which meant that his hand did not form properly in the womb. At the age of four, after years of pain, his hand was amputated. His twin brother Shaquill was an incredible athlete growing up—as was Shaquem, but his physical limitation meant that he was constantly counted out.
By scouts, by coaches, and by his peers.
When Shaquill was offered a full scholarship to UCF, he refused unless his brother was offered one, as well.
Shaquem languished on the bench for much of his career at UCF—so much so that he contemplated quitting. It wasn’t until Coach Scott Frost took over at UCF that he saw what the previous coaching regime had missed.
Shaquem was a football player. A really, really good one.
When his brother Shaquill was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round of 2017’s NFL Draft, Shaquem began to thrive at UCF. His defensive prowess and instincts at linebacker helped the Knights go undefeated last season, and he took home Defensive Player of the Year honors for the American Athletic Conference.
But it still wasn’t enough. Shaquem, now a senior, was not invited to the NFL Combine. A veritable social media PR campaign took place, and the NFL finally extended an invite. Shaquem Griffin did not disappoint. He put up 20 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash—the fastest time for a linebacker in the history of the combine.
He was invited to the draft, but it wasn’t until the fifth round on Saturday that he heard his name called. He would be rejoining his twin brother in Seattle.
Shaquem’s story is one of never counting yourself out, and never allowing others to tell you what you can and cannot do. It’s one of pushing yourself to achieve your goals, regardless if the odds appear stacked against you. It’s a monumental tale that should serve as inspiration for those who may find themselves with the same physical limitations.
I’m an unabashed, long-suffering Atlanta Falcons fan, but with the Seahawks selecting Shaquem Griffin, I have found another team to root for, as well.