The Rise of Shaquem Griffin
The Hero of National Champions UCF
March 23, 2018
Shaquem Griffin recently completed one of the more impressive combines, especially for a linebacker, since the combine started in 2003. His broad jump was average, not great, at 117”. Griffin completed 20 reps at 225 lbs (bench presses). He ran a 4.38. This was the fastest recorded time for a linebacker. Ever. This was incredibly impressive: unmatched speed for a linebacker. Perhaps the most impressive part of his combine was he did all this with only one hand. Yes, Shaquem Griffin has only one hand.
Shaquem was born with only hand. In the womb, the amniotic sac wrapped around his developing hand. While surgery would normally be the best option for these complications, surgery was deemed too risky. The doctors didn’t want to risk hurting his twin brother. His hand developed, enveloped by fluid and corralled by fibers. This led to Griffin being born with a hand which felt like a surgeon’s glove filled with jello. As one could imagine, this situation was unbearably painful. Griffin at the age of 4 attempted to cut off his hand to alleviate the pain. His parents scheduled for his amputation the next day. Griffin was now one handed.
His twin brother, Shaquill, was born with both hands. Naturally, the boys were competitive with each other- as twins and as brothers often are. They both, while growing up, showed promise playing football. A lot of this success can be attributed to his father. As Griffin recounts in a letter to the NFL GMs (link below), his father would push him and Shaquill to their physical brink, making them do drills at all hours of the day. He wouldn’t accept mental weakness from his sons. Shaquem remembers almost quitting at times; the stressors were just too much.
His father would have the twins do hurdles; not too hard. But a ball to the chest rifled from a full grown man – as a child – would force the kids to either toughen up mentally or quit. These boys wouldn’t quit. Shaquem grew from these experiences as a child. People, opposing coaches told Shaquem he couldn’t play because of his hand. This would have broke many a young child’s spirit. Instead, griffin’s character was fortified. His will and his resolve were only strengthened.
Fast forward ten some odd years and Shaquem is alone in his dorm. UCF (the University of Central Florida) brought Shaquem over to land his star recruit twin- Shaquill. Shaquem was redshirted. He was frustrated. He was doing all the things his coaches asked of him. He was performing better than his peers. And still “just keep plugging” and “You’ll get your chance”. The disillusioned player continued like this for a few years. Coaches kept on telling him he’d get his opportunity. The closest he got was by becoming a second string linebacker. He was promptly demoted: Third string then practice squad.
A new coaching staff headed by Scott Frost stepped in Griffins redshirt junior year. After three years with the old coaching staff, Frost provided a spark. Frost didn’t see a means to get a top recruit in Shaquil. Frost saw a ball player, a kid who could straight up play. Griffin was given his chance, and within two years, was the leader of the defense. With one hand, Griffin was named the 2018 Peach Bowl Defensive MVP and 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Now he has the draft, and the future of his choosing, in front of him.
Griffin’s Letter to NFL GMs https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/shaquem-griffin-ucf-nfl-draft-letter-to-general-managers