Shaquem Griffin, who played linebacker at the University of Florida and was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2018 NFL draft, was born with a fibrous strand of amniotic membrane wrapped around his left wrist. Shaquem’s left hand was amputated when he was four years old.
Shaquem’s mother, Tangie Griffin, remembers dropping Shaquem and his twin brother (Shaquill) off at daycare the day after his surgery. Tangie warned Shaquem to keep his bandage clean. She told him, “No football.” But when Tangie picked her sons up later that day, Shaquem had a smile on his face and a bloody bandage.
Terry (Shaquem’s father) had both Shaquem and Shaquill practicing football drills by the age of ten. Terry treated his twin sons equally. Terry says he threw the ball just as hard to Shaquem that he did to Shaquill. Shaquem admits he did take a few balls to the face before he learned to catch.
"(My dad) didn't want me to make any excuses for why I couldn't catch the ball.”
At the age of twelve, Shaquem made the decision to become a running back. Shaquem and his dad would practice in his backyard to make sure Shaquem could hold on to the ball. "My dad was swinging my brother around in the air. He had the ball. He was holding on, and my dad was tossing him everywhere. He never let go,” says Shaquill.
In high school, Shaquem’s dad adapted workout equipment so Shaquem could workout alongside his peers. One adaptation was called “The Book” which attached to Shaquem’s left forearm and helped Shaquem stabilize his arms when doing push-ups and bench presses.
When it was time for college the twins were both offered a scholarship to the University of Central Florida (UFC) - Shaquem and Shaquill were a packaged deal. Shaquem discusses declining a scholarship from another university because he was not offered a scholarship at the same time as his twin. Shaquem had to prove his abilities.
"You're not saying I'm not mentally capable. You're not saying I'm not fast enough. You're not saying I'm not strong enough. The only reason you're saying I can't do something is because I have one hand."
However, Shaquem’s beginning with UFC was a rocky one while he only played on special teams. His parents encouraged him to stick it out, and later that year the team came under new management. The new coach recognized Shaquem’s potential stating, "There's not a player I've coached who practices harder than he does.”
"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. It always comes down to the work ethic. God put you on the Earth for a purpose. I feel like my purpose is to get away from people making excuses," says Shaquem. He hopes he can motivate others.
"If I keep doing what I'm doing, it's going to create a better future for someone else.”
Shaquem’s story is one of perseverance! Here’s to a future of success. Good luck with the Seahawks!
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