Seahawks rookie Shaquem Griffin inspires in starting season opener

Miguel Campos | Contributing Reporter

When in need of inspiration in sports, people often look back to athletes like Michael Jordan, Jackie Robinson or Jesse Owens. After getting cut from his high school team, Jordan came back to become arguably the best player to ever step foot on a basketball court. Then there is Robinson, who broke the color barrier in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers and went on to become a baseball Hall-of-Famer in 1962; his No. 42 the only number retired across MLB in 1997. Last, but definitely not least, Owens won four gold medals in 1936 to shock the world and stun his doubters. There are countless other inspirational stories in sports, with new ones popping up every now and then, seemingly out of the blue. This year is no different, with Seattle Seahawks rookie Shaquem Griffin making waves in sports media outlets across the country.

The Seattle Seahawks selected UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin in the fifth round, 141st overall, during the 2018 NFL Draft.Courtesy of MCT Campus

The Seattle Seahawks selected UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin in the fifth round, 141st overall, during the 2018 NFL Draft.

For those that don’t know, Griffin made his NFL debut this past Sunday against the Denver Broncos. You might be reading this and saying, “Big whoop, people make it to the professional level all the time, what’s the deal with this guy?” I’ll tell you what the big deal is: Unlike all other football players that play weekly for the NFL, Griffin is one-handed.

You read that correctly, someone with one hand started a professional football league game (insert jaw drop here).

Griffin and his brother Shaquill were brought into this world only a minute apart, with Shaquill coming first of the two. Everything was thought to be fine, but doctors noticed that Shaquem had been born with a rare condition called amniotic band syndrome. Affecting roughly 5 in every 10,000 newborns, it is a condition in which the umbilical cord wraps around and cuts off the circulation to a limb. This halts and alters development at the affected site. For Shaquem, his mother’s umbilical cord wrapped around his wrist, causing his left hand to not develop properly. As a result of this anomaly, Shaquem spent the first few years of his life experiencing extreme pain in the left hand, until one day when he was only four years old, he was heard screaming and crying by his mother, only for her to walk in with her son Shaquem with a knife in his hand. He intended to cut off his undeveloped digits to stop the intense pain. The doctor was called immediately and Shaquem was brought to the hospital the next day to remove the hand.

Growing up, Shaquem and his brother did everything together. Their relationship to this day can only be described by Shaquill as “inseparable.” They were always side-by-side, despite the fact that Shaquem had his abnormality. They grew up playing football and during the college selection process, multiple Division I schools offered Shaquill full ride scholarships to play football, including the likes of the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of Miami. Despite this, Shaquill did not want to go on and play football without his brother Shaquem. The University of Central Florida offered scholarships to both, so that is where they went. After a slow start for Shaquem, the 2016-17 season proved fruitful for him, as new management gave him a chance and he made the most out of it. Finishing 11th in the nation in sacks and named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year at the season’s end, it was apparent to everyone watching that this man could play.

After leading his college team to an undefeated season in 2017, he was contacted to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine, where he recorded the fastest time in the 40-yard dash ever recorded for a linebacker, 4.38 seconds. He then proceeded to be drafted by the Seahawks, the same team his brother was on, leading us all the way to the start of the 2018 NFL season, where he would prove to the Seahawks coaching staff that he deserved the starting nod from day one.

This all goes to show that nothing can stop you from achieving your athletic dreams, as it didn’t stop Shaquem from achieving his dream of becoming a young player to be reckoned with on the field. He is undoubtedly inspiring hundreds to thousands of people, with his influence spreading wider and wider as more hear about this true underdog story.