The Seattle Seahawks selected University of Central Florida Linebacker, Shaquem Griffin in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, marking the first time in modern history that a player with only one hand was drafted to play on an NFL team. Adding to the uniqueness of the moment is the fact that Griffin will now be playing alongside his brother, Shaquille Griffin, who also plays for the Seattle Seahawks.
“I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t know what to say. I was trying to get the words out, but I couldn’t talk,” Shaquem told ESPN moments after receiving the call from the Seahawks informing him that he would be drafted. “It was tough — I’m not going to lie to you — seeing all those guys picked in front of me.”
Shaquem was in the bathroom of his hotel room, where he was watching the draft with family members when the call from the Seahawks came in. His brother noticed the 425 area code on the call and barged in on his brother to make sure he took the call. Shaquem was reportedly in tears as he reached for the phone.
“When I saw [the 425 area code], I grabbed the phone and jumped over everybody else on the floor and went to the bathroom,” Shaquill said. “I checked to see if he locked the door; he didn’t lock the door. I said, ‘You have to grab this!’ I said, ‘You don’t have time for this!’ I handed him the phone, and that’s how it went.”
A congenital birth defect left Shaquem with only one functioning hand since the age of 4 but he hasn’t let it stop him. He proved doubters wrong at every level of competition and eventually was offered a full scholarship to play at UCF. His time at the University started off bumpy – he was demoted to third string and then the scout team. He was moved to a starting role after Robert Frost was hired as head coach in 2016.
In his final college season, Shaquem was named MVP of the 2018 Peach Bowl and was awarded American Athletic Conference Defensive player of the year. He went on to announce his intent to play in the NFL and impressed teams at the Scouting Combine by bench pressing 225 pounds 20 times with a prosthetic arm, and running the fastest 40 yard dash time for a linebacker in over a decade.
“It was emotional for all the obvious reasons,” Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll said about the phone call he made to Shaquem informing him he was being selected. “We love Shaquill and knowing what could come of this. My partner here [Seahawks General Manager John Schneider] was kind of a mess, to tell you the truth, when he handed me the phone.”
Photo by elisfkc by Wikimedia Commons