With the 2018 NFL Draft set to begin Thursday night in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the dreams of hundreds of prospects will be either realized or crushed by the week’s end.
One of those hopefuls is the University of Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who was born with a congenital birth defect that affected his ability to use his left hand. While the extremity was nonfunctioning, it still caused Griffin great pain, to the point he even considered removing it himself as a child.
“It was just so sensitive to touch and everything else, that I remember the night where I wanted to be Dr. Griffin,” the 22-year-old from St. Petersberg, Florida, told CBS News. “And I remember I got up and climbed on top of the counter to get a knife out, trying to cut my fingers off… and my mom caught me in the kitchen.”
Griffin’s mother, Tangie, recalled the emotional night with her son, which eventually lead the family to go to the hospital the next day and start the process of amputating the hand.
“And I’m holding him, just trying to put him back to sleep,” she told CBS News. “I don’t want him to go through that pain. It was just that bad.”
Though he was down a hand, Griffin didn’t stop playing the game of football. Griffin, along with his twin brother, Shaquill, went on to play football at UCF — though Shaquill saw much more playing time, and is now a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks. Yet, during Griffin’s last two seasons at UCF, he earned more playing time under coach Scott Frost, who recognized his skill.
“It was obvious right away how good he was,” Frost told ESPN. “It was easy after the first couple of practices to look past how many hands he had and we knew we had to find a place for him on the field.”
After helping UCF complete an undefeated season in 2017, Griffin got a spot in the NFL combine in March, and he put on quite the show.
Griffin clocked a 40-yard dash time of 4.38 seconds, the fastest time at the event for a linebacker since 2003.
“We did not expect a 4.38. It was… Oh, my God. Wow,” Griffin’s mother told the Orlando Sentinel. “That is amazing. I said, ‘227 pounds with that type of speed?’ Now that explains why you see him on the edge get in so fast. I mean, there it is. This is why.”
Not only that, but he pulled off a herculean feat of bench pressing a 225-pound barbell 20 times while wearing a prosthetic hand to hold it in place.
Griffin has told multiple outlets that he expects to be picked up by a team during this year’s draft, which would make him the only one-handed athlete to play in the league. But for Griffin, aside from making history, being selected would be a realization of his childhood dreams above all else.
“One day I’m going to be called ‘Shaquem Griffin the football player’ and not ‘Shaquem Griffin the one-hand wonder,” Griffin told Today. “I don’t need that name. Just call me Shaquem Griffin the football player. I’m good with that.”