How Shaquem Griffin has defied the odds

Shaquem Griffin, one of the Seattle Seahawks’ newest additions, has a disability that most people have never heard of. Griffin was born with a congenital disorder called Amniotic Band Syndrome, which means he was born without his right hand. Despite this disability, Griffin was drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks for the start of the 2018 NFL season.

Griffin has had to find ways to do everyday things like tie his shoes, get dressed, bench press, and even catch a football. However, with all the doubt one might expect, Griffin has done the unthinkable by becoming one of the premier players drafted from the University of Central Florida.

“Watching the combine, seeing what he did, was truly inspirational for me, and I do not even have a disability,” said a senior at Fair Lawn High School.

Griffin continues to defy the odds and attributes some of his success to playing with his brother, Shaquill Griffin, who has been a constant pillar of support in Shaquem’s life. Shaquill Griffin, now a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, turned down offers from football powerhouses like the University of Florida and the University of Southern Florida to play with his brother in college.

“It was about sticking with my brother, and the bond and the love I have for him is way bigger than some scholarship,” said Shaquill Griffin in the SportsCenter interview series called SportsCenter Featured.

It was not until the University of Central Florida offered the brothers scholarships to play football that they saw their dreams become reality. Shaquill made an immediate impact by starting and turning heads with his explosiveness on the field, while Shaquem was on the practice squad. Shaquem Griffin wanted the opportunity to show his talent and that chance came when Scott Frost became the new head coach.

“It was easy after the first couple practices to look past how many hands he had and we knew we needed to find a place for him on the field,” said Scott Frost in a SportsCenter Featured interview.

Frost decided to make Griffin a starter during the 2017 season. Griffin had 92 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, and 11.5 sacks. He also won defensive player of the year. Griffin's momentum will be hard to stop given the circumstances he has overcome.

“If Coach Frost did not give [Shaquem Griffin] the chance to start, he would not be in the NFL today,” said a junior at Fair Lawn High School.

Griffin is not just changing the sport of football, he is changing the sports world at large by inspiring young athletes. For example, a recent viral video shows a young boy receiving a Shaquem Griffin jersey. The boy then breaks down into tears as a result. This video has over 87,000 views on CBS Sports’ Instagram page.

“Seeing the video was very touching. To see an athlete have such an impact on another athlete is really special,” said a senior student at Fair Lawn High School.

Griffin has also made an impact on the life of high school junior Trashaun Willis. Like Griffin, Willis was also born with Amniotic Band Syndrome. Willis recently went viral on YouTube when he was filmed dunking a basketball a few years ago during a middle school game. Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets saw the video, which currently has over 1.4 million views on YouTube, and went out to meet Willis. Willis says he looks up to Griffin now and hopes to be just like him one day.

“Ever since last football season I have been looking up to Shaquem Griffin,” Willis said.

Griffin does not want this just to be a sentimental story. Instead, he wants to go out there and prove something to the world.

“I might be changing the world, but I’m not just a feel good story,” said Shaquem Griffin.

Header Credit: USA Today

Thumbnail Credit: Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times

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