Every year around NFL draft time, there’s always at least one extremely inspirational story. There always seems to be that one prospect you root for more than the others. This year, it’s no different.
UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin was born with Amniotic Band syndrome, and as a result, had his left hand amputated at four years old. However, it’s not something he’s let stop him. He went on to play ball at UCF with his brother Shaquill, a third round pick of the Seattle Seahawks last year.
Shaquem was redshirted his freshman year, and received little playing time. When head coach George O’Leary was fired following the 2015 season, new coach Scott Frost decided to give Griffin the playing time he desired. The result was enormous.
In 2016, Griffin recorded 92 tackles (20 for loss), 11.5 sacks, seven passes defended, and one interception en route to being named 2016 AAC Defensive Player of the Year. He followed that up with 74 tackles (13.5 for loss), 7.5 sacks, three passes defended, and one interception in 2017.
Those might not seem like the most eye-popping stats, but Griffin has something about him that a lot of players don’t, which is an extremely high level of energy. He plays hard and doesn’t let anything or anyone stop him. He is a leader out on the field, and that is something you can’t coach.
This begs the question: Why did the NFL wait so long to invite him to the combine? They didn’t extend an invite until he elected to play in the Senior Bowl, which is rather late to extend an invite for this event. If you look at the tape, you see an explosive playmaker. Maybe this is just me, but the fact he has no left hand becomes lost on me when watching play. I don’t see him any differently than any other player.
However, I’m not a NFL scout. They believed the missing appendage would limit him. They believed it was too big a gamble to even give him a chance. Now, he’s made them regret ever thinking that.
On Sunday, Griffin ran a 4.38 40 yard dash. That is the fastest 40-time for a linebacker since they began keeping track in 2003. He used a prosthetic to do the bench rep portion, and he excelled at that as well. He put in 20 reps at 225 pounds, which was three more than his twin brother Shaquill.
When the dust settled, the question shifted from if he’d be drafted to when. He proved the doubters wrong, and that’s something he’s done all his life. The NFL is realizing its mistake and taking Griffin seriously.
It’s about time.
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