The One-Handed Linebacker Who's Turning Heads Across the NFL

For Shaquem Griffin, "never" was not an option.

Logan Bowles/Getty Images

Chances are you hadn't heard the name Shaquem Griffin before last week’s NFL Draft Combine. And you may not have believed it was possible for an amputee to play big-time college football — let alone be the defensive leader of 2017's sole undefeated team, the University of Central Florida Knights. But it’s likely you’ll hear his name called in April’s NFL Draft, and his story is certain to amaze and inspire you.

Positive Charge Michael Hickey/Getty Images Positive Charge Born in St. Petersburg, Florida, Griffin was just four years old when the painful effects of a developmental condition led doctors to amputate his left hand below the wrist. Instead of despair came determination. 18 years later, his remarkable journey has him on the doorstep of the NFL.
Shining Through Alex Menendez/Getty Images Shining Through 336 players were invited to the 2018 NFL Combine, an annual event giving NFL general managers a chance to evaluate and dissect college football's elite prospects — all who have the hopes of hearing their name called in April's NFL Draft. The biggest talents in the sport were in attendance, but few stood out more than Griffin, and not just because he's missing a left hand. How Fast-inating! Michael Hickey/Getty Images How Fast-inating! Griffin was a late invite, but he took very little time to make an impression. How little? Griffin clocked 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash — the fastest time for a linebacker in 15 years. He also put up 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press — nine more than he had ever done before. Oh, and he did it with a prosthetic hand. Going Viral Michael Hickey/Getty Images Going Viral The 22 year old may have entered the week relatively unknown outside of NFL media and hardcore fans, but his performance, and the massive buzz it brought to Twitter, changed all that.
No Excuses. Play Like a Champion. Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images No Excuses. Play Like a Champion. "Nobody was ever going to tell me that I didn’t belong on a football field," Griffin wrote in a Player's Tribune feature. "And nobody was ever going to tell me that I couldn’t be great." Support System Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Support System Shaquem's twin brother, Shaquill Griffin, also played at UCF — the result of a pact the two made in middle school. Shaquill is only 60 seconds older, but graduated a year earlier and now plays in the Seahawks' secondary. Second to None Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images Second to None UCF fans witnessed Griffin's winning mentality first-hand on many occasions, as the linebacker made the all-conference first team in both 2016 and 2017.
A Knight to Remember Icon Sportswire via Getty Images A Knight to Remember While Griffin refused to accept limitations, UCF refused to lose. The Knights finished off an undefeated 13-0 season with a 34-27 victory over Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Lasting Impression Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Lasting Impression Appropriately, Griffin was named the game's defensive MVP, with 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks in the final game of his remarkable college career. Don't Stop Believing Jeffery A. Salter/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images Don't Stop Believing Projected as a fifth-or-sixth-round pick in April's draft, the journey to professional football continues for Shaquem Griffin.
Sign up for our Newsletter