Shaquem Griffin made headlines this past weekend at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. Not only did he perform well, but the stats he put up were on par with many current NFL stars. There are always standouts at every Scouting Combine, but Shaquem Griffin is unique for his own reason: he was born without a left hand. Many critics would say that is something that cannot be overcome at a professional level, but Griffin is here to prove them all wrong. Not only is Shaquem Griffin a dominant player at his position, but he also has that game changing potential that so many NFL franchises desperately need.
Shaquem Griffin lost his hand due to a rare prenatal condition, but he will not let that hold him back. Shaquem played for the University of Central Florida, along with his twin brother Shaquille. Shaquille played as a defensive back, while Shaquem found himself at the linebacker position as he weighs in at 227 pounds according to NFL.com. At the combine, Shaquem Griffin ran the 40 yard dash in 4.38 seconds, got 117.8 inches on his broad jump, and benched 225 pounds twenty times… WITH ONE HAND! His 40 yard dash was the fastest time by a linebacker since 2003, and a faster time than the likes of running-backs Adrian Peterson, Ezekiel Elliott, and star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. His broad jump performance, while not astonishing, still outperformed 4x All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman. With a very good performance at the combine he has captured the attention of several NFL teams and proven many haters wrong. Let it also be said the NFL almost did not extend an invitation for Griffin to attend the combine, but Shaquem was able to definitively prove why he deserved to be in attendance.
Shaquem Griffin won the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in his first year for the UCF Golden Knights in 2016. In 2017 he was also a first-team all-conference choice with 74 tackles, a team-high seven sacks, one interception, three pass breakups, and two forced fumbles…and again…WITH ONLY ONE HAND! UCF went 13-0 this past season and won the Peach Bowl 34-27 against the 7th ranked Auburn Tigers. In that game Griffin notched 12 tackles, and 1.5 sacks en route to finishing out their perfect season.
Shaquem Griffin is the type of player to lead by example, and keep a smile on his face because he is always enjoying himself on the field. But the mental factor is something people don’t talk about enough. An anonymous NFC scouting director was quoted on NFL.com as saying “He doesn’t have a left hand. That’s going to limit him with some things and that’s going to hurt his draft value…” Shaquem Griffin has heard the negative comments his whole life, but rather than letting that hold him back, he now has a chip on his shoulder and is ready to show out. In the words of the Philadelphia Eagles’ center Jason Kelce, “Hungry dogs run faster!”
His ability to make plays when needed and his refusal to be beaten is something that a team can rally around, especially during crunch time late in the 4th quarter. Another NFL.com analyst when asked about Griffin’s mentality said that he: “Asks for no quarter and gives none.”
For teams that are looking at linebackers in the draft, such as the Eagles, the Dolphins and even the Texans, they should look no further than Shaquem Griffin. He has a workhorse mentality, and will be a good addition to any team that is willing to “roll the dice” on him. For anybody who wants to claim that his “disability” will be a factor in the decision making process, I would have to agree. Of course he will not be able make diving fingertip interceptions, but the man is a linebacker. His job is to drop into coverage when required, and lay into ball carriers and blockers, which he has proven time and time again that he is more than capable of doing. Additionally, his Combine stats are remarkable, even for a player with his “disability.”
Shaquem Griffin has shown that he deserved to be at the combine, and he deserves to be a starter on an NFL team that needs a player who is motivated by more than just a big paycheck. Is Griffin someone who might end up just being another bust? Of course. That is a possibility for virtually every single player in the NFL draft. But that will not be because he is missing his left hand. A player like Griffin who has come this far will simply not allow that to be the case. In this situation, the benefits far outweigh the risk, and I believe a player with his drive and his potential deserves serious consideration. He has done everything in his power to make his case to become a professional football player, and teams would be foolish to pass on him simply because of his “disability.” Will this underdog story continue into the NFL? The world is waiting and watching but one thing is for certain: SHAQUEM GRIFFIN WILL NOT BE DENIED!