Shaquem Griffin’s Inspirational Performance Is What Makes The NFL Combine Worth Watching

Shaquem Griffin’s Inspirational Performance Is What Makes The NFL Combine Worth Watching

One night before the amputation, his mother came into the kitchen to find little Shaquem crying from the pain and trying to cut off his left fingers.

Doctors were forced to amputate Shaquem Griffin’s left hand when he was just four years old, as the result of a terrible birth defect known as amniotic band syndrome. As a small child Shaquem lived with “constant, scorching pain every time his jelly-like fingers and hand touched anything.” One night before the amputation, his mother came into the kitchen to find little Shaquem crying from the pain and trying to cut off his left fingers.

At this year’s recent NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Griffin wowed scouts, coaches, and viewers alike, showing them that eighteen years later he didn’t need two hands to be an NFL caliber player. The former University of Central Florida Linebacker posted the fastest 40-yard dash time by a linebacker in more than a decade, at 4.38 seconds, blew away expectations on the bench press and impressed every team official and member of the press he met.

With the aide of a prosthetic attachment, he was able to complete 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, a number well past his initial goal of six. Rich Eisen described it as “inspiring, emotional, wonderful.”

Griffin has been fighting his entire playing career to make the point that just because he’s missing a hand doesn’t mean he’s not capable of competing at the highest level, and this weekend, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said their team would evaluate Griffin as just that, any other player.

“He’s very exciting to watch on film because he just plays with his heart, with passion, and he gives you everything he has on every snap,” Spielman said. “I don’t think [his having one hand] should be a factor, just because he’s shown he can be productive at a high level against some high-level competition. I think each team will make that determination, but we think he’s a heck of a football player, and that won’t be a factor for us.”

As a two-year starter at UCF Shaquem Griffin was a bonafide star. In 2016 he was named the All-American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, after amassing a whopping 92 tackles, 11.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.

Griffin has the speed to get off the edge and blitz the quarterback, or ball carrier, but at 227 pounds, he might be a little undersized for a linebacker spot in the NFL. However, with his speed, heart, and that intangible magic quality that teams are always looking for in good players, Griffin will absolutely get drafted. In fact, this is a kid who should go no later than the second or third round. He can make an immediate impact on special teams, and with some development could play at either linebacker or safety longterm.

At a recent press event, Shaquem offered up his services at whatever position a team may need him,

“I don’t have to be the guy who just [rushes] the quarterback,” Griffin said. “If you need somebody who can cover – and not just tight ends, I can cover slots, too – you watch some film. I got a few interceptions against some slot. I want to be able to show NFL teams: Whatever you need help at, I can play it.”

He said he would even be willing to play kicker, and although that seems unlikely, there’s no doubt several NFL teams will have Shaquem Griffin on their draft board next month. This is a kid who can make a difference on your field and in your locker room from day one. His story is inspirational, and proof that no matter what hardship kids may face, if they have a dream, there’s a way to achieve it. Look for Griffin on an NFL team Sundays this fall.

Brad Jackson is a writer and radio personality whose work has appeared at ABC, CBS, Fox News, and multiple radio programs. He was the longtime host and producer of Coffee & Markets, an award-winning podcast and radio show with more than 1,500 episodes. Brad covers all things edible and cultural for The Federalist. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram at @bradwjackson.
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