—Christian Clark, PR—
The Alabama Crimson Tide were the National Champions of College Football in 2018. Don’t tell that to Shaquem Griffin and the University of Central Florida Knights. UCF was in the midst of the greatest football season in program history. However, because they were not in a “Power 5” conference, it was nearly impossible for them to qualify for the College Football Playoff. Instead, they ended up in one of the top 6 bowl games on New Years. It was a miracle season for the Knights. In 2015, UCF failed in embarrassing fashion, going winless. In 2017, they shattered a record as they became the only NCAA team to go from a season of only L’s to a season of only W’s. They were 12-0 and were riding high as “The Real National Champions” following their 34-27 win over Auburn.
To highlight the real story in that game, we take a look at a man by the name of Shaquem Griffin. In the game he recorded 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks to win Co-MVP of the Peach Bowl. Not impressive, eh? Heard this done before, eh? What about making plays at full speed with a hand missing?
When Griffin was born in 1995, he was diagnosed with a condition called amniotic band syndrome. Essentially, the fingers on his hand do not develop correctly or are rendered useless. Eventually, he got his fingers amputated after trying to self-amputate them with a kitchen knife due to intense pain one day. In his young life, he still was able to play in sports despite the disability. People constantly made fun of him and even tried to get him get kicked out of various leagues, saying he wasn’t suit to play or things like “football is for two-handed players.” Griffin knew that he would spend the rest of life having to prove people wrong that he could play in the big leagues.
Despite all of the criticism, he earned a three-star rating out of Lakewood High (FL) en route to scholarship to UCF. Griffin was redshirted his first year and hardly played during his true freshman and sophomore years. Sometimes he didn’t even travel with the team and had to watch the game on television like the rest of us. After the tragic 2015 season, Coach Frost told Griffin that he would be receiving extended playing time. In 2016, he had a breakout season with 11 sacks and 92 total tackles, playing in all 13 games that year.
After declaring for the NFL Draft, the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis was his next stop. At Lucas Oil Stadium, Griffin recorded the fastest 40 yard dash time, completing the trial in just 4.38 seconds. Despite performing well at the combine, this first-round talent was projected to go by the end of the second day of the draft at best… simply because of his condition.
The 2018 NFL Draft was finally here. Would Shaquem Griffin be drafted or would teams shy away from him? Thursday and Friday came and went without Griffin hearing his name called. With the third and final day on the horizon, some worried on whether or not a team would turn in their cards for the talented linebacker.
Nothing comes easy. Griffin’s father would always tell him that saying when lasering a baseball at his chest as a kid. Griffin said that he would never catch it but his father was ultimately trying to teach him a lesson that he would never forget.
With the 141st pick (Round 5, Pick 4), the Seattle Seahawks selected Shaquem Griffin. What was even sweeter is that not only is he living his dream playing professional football and experiencing the scenery of the Pacific Northwest but now he now gets to play with his brother, Shaquill Griffin, who was drafted in the third round in the 2017 NFL Draft last year.
The last time Griffin took the gridiron was the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl at the newly minted Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, he will be playing in front of 72,000 fans at CenturyLink Field. There is no doubt that he will be a fan favorite, Seahawks fan or not.
Griffin may never start at linebacker in the NFL. Maybe he will. He may only play special teams and chase down a few kicks. Maybe he will become a Pro Bowler or Super Bowl Champion. Although his future is uncertain, one thing is set in stone: he is an inspiration to not only people with the same condition as him but also a living example to everyone around the globe to never give up on their dreams.
Shaquem Griffin pic via Sporting News