Shaquem Griffin: College Football's One-handed Star LB

Print
  • By Ralph Warner
More Columns >

Excuses -- we all make them regularly. Whether it's why we couldn't make it to the gym or stick to that new budget, there's always a reason for our shortcomings. However, then you hear stories like that of Shaquem Griffin and realize how virtually anything is possible with strong will and dedication.

The 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year's profile in Sports Illustrated is one of the most inspirational stories you'll come across. Playing linebacker for the University of Central Florida, Griffin regularly succeeds with one hand, and on October 29, 2016, he played with a broken right arm -- meaning he was working with zero fully functional arms -- yet still racked up 14 tackles, one interception, and one fumble recovery in a 31-24 loss to Houston.

Griffin began making the most of his situation when his left hand was amputated at the age of four. Prior to the operation, the amniotic band syndrome he had since birth caused him such excruciating pain that Griffin attempted to do the job himself.

"When I got into the kitchen, he had a knife in his hand," Shaquem's mother, Tangie Griffin, told SI. "He was getting ready to cut the digits off."

Tangie stopped Shaquem, but the incident prompted surgery the next day. The operation would relieve Shaquem of the unbearable pain and begin to shape the man the 22-year-old is today.

Shaquem has a twin brother, Shaquill Griffin, who plays cornerback for the Seahawks. Shaquill has all of his appendages, but says their parents treated both him and Shaquem the same growing up.

Their father, Terry, taught both of them how to catch and threw the ball to each of the brothers with equal force.

"He didn't want me to make any excuses for why I couldn't catch the ball," Shaquem said. "I took a couple footballs to the face before I learned to catch."

From there Shaquem learned to train for the sport he loved on his own by building custom contraptions so that he could lift weights and develop like his brother and fellow teammates at Lakewood High.

UCF's former coach George O'Leary offered both Griffin brothers scholarships, but in his first three years Shaquem did not receive much playing time, while his brother Shaquill started for the Knights.

When O'Leary retired during the 2015 season, the new coaching staff saw potential in Shaquem and he went from being buried on the depth chart in the spring to becoming a starter by the 2016 season. As a redshirt junior Shaquem racked up 92 total tackles, 11.5 sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles on his way to becoming the 2016 AAC Defensive Player of the Year.

This year Shaquem has 56 total tackles, one interception and two forced fumbles helping the No. 12 Knights to an 11-0 record. The UCF Knights will play against the Memphis Tigers in the AAC championship on Saturday for a chance to play in one of the New Year's Six bowl games. After that, Shaquem plans on continuing his amazing journey by playing in the NFL.

"A lot of people in our generation like to make excuses about little things that really don't hinder them from doing what they want to," Shaquem said. "It always comes down to the work ethic."

For more inspiring and fun football stories, follow The Checkdown on Twitter.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop