By: Addison Willmon
There are three kinds of athletes:
The Lucky – Some people are just born into a favorable situation and are groomed from a young age to be great.
The Talented – These players are born with natural athleticism, and sometimes don’t even have to try to be fantastic.
The Underdog – This is the story that everyone loves. Players that aren’t given anything for free. People that have worked nearly every day of their lives to reach the goals they set for themselves. Someone that every fan can get behind. Nobody more perfectly embodies this idea than Shaquem Griffin.
Shaquem Griffin was born with a condition called amniotic band syndrome. This caused an unbearably painful deformation of his left hand, which plagued him until he was four years old. It was then that his parents discovered that he was going to attempt to amputate his own hand. The very next day, his parents took him to the hospital where his hand was amputated professionally.
Look ahead 18 years later.
Griffin went on to play for the University of Central Florida as a linebacker and was the 2016 AAC Defensive Player of the Year, as well as the first ever Jason Witten Man of the Year Award winner.
In 2018, he was drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks. Here, he will play alongside his twin brother Shaquill. To put that into perspective, he was drafted ahead of 22 other linebackers. He is that good—with or without a left hand.
So, what does he add to the Seahawks as a player?
First, he is suited perfectly for special teams. He will make an immediate impact tackling on kickoffs and punts. After a 4.38 time on his forty-yard dash at the combine, the fastest in recorded history for a linebacker, he could even return kicks as well.
Outside of special teams though, it is hard to say Griffin will see the field often, if at all. If history is any indication, however, it’s hard to count him out completely. It is safe to assume he will compete for the second-string position and may even give the starting linebackers a run for their money. He is an excellent pass-rusher who can get off the edge quickly, he drops back well into coverage, and he hits hard—all the characteristics of a great linebacker. There is no reason to assume any of that will change now that he is in the NFL.
Is Shaquem Griffin an underdog? Absolutely. Not only is he playing with some of the best athletes in the world, but he is doing so with a severe physical limitation.
Playing in this league will not be easy for him, but there are many people that want to see him succeed and are excited to see what these next few years hold for him.