By: Ryan Morgera:
High school football players have a 1 in 17 chance of playing football at the college level. From college football to the pros, the odds drop down to 1 and 50, according to NCAA statistics. High school players eventually drafted by a professional team? About 9 in 10,000. One-in-10,000 isn’t new to Shaquem Griffin. Griffin is a senior linebacker for the University of Central Florida who lost a hand due to a rare prenatal condition, which caused severe pains in his hand for the first years of his life, before he had the rest removed (after his mother walked in on him at 4 years old trying to self amputate his fingers due to the pain). The chances of this condition? 6-in-10,000. Adversity isn’t a strange concept to Griffin, who has faced it head on his whole life, and doesn’t plan to stop now.
According to NFL.com, Griffin stands at 6’1″ tall, 227 pounds. At the NFL Combine this past year, he posted elite numbers, running a 4.38 40 yard dash along with 20 reps at bench press with 1 hand! He also posted a 117″ broad jump. As a junior, in his first year as a starter, he was named the 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. That year he led his team in tackles, with 92, tackles for loss, with 20, and sacks, with 11.5. In 2017, his senior season, he was named first team all conference again, where he had 74 tackles, 13.5 for loss, and 7 sacks. He also added an interception each year, which is quite the stat for a young man with one hand.
According to NFL Draft Experts and Scouts, he should be drafted by the 4th or 5th round, but don’t be surprised to see someone take a chance on this young man trying to live out his dreams, when everyone told him he couldn’t do it. That’s a familiar story when it comes to sports. And that also is the crazy thing about sports. People who are told they will fail, can succeed. The work and effort put in outside of the playing field is what matters the most when success is earned on the playing field. Griffin was told he was “too slow”, he was “only recruited at UCF so that his brother would commit a year later”, “he won’t be able to succeed with one hand”. Now, after a successful career at UCF, he is a projected 4th or 5th round NFL Draft pick. That’s a story. On The Players Tribune, Griffin wrote a story about his youth football days, when they used to weigh in before games. The opposing coach told Griffin he was too heavy to play, but Griffin was not. The reason that the coach didn’t want Griffin to play was because he “shouldn’t have been allowed to play football at all. Because football is for two-handed players.”
At Assumption College in Worcester, MA, the Greyhounds football team is achieving great success, and much of that success can be attributed to the fact that these kids were told they couldn’t make it, and now they are doing everything they can to make it. Mitchell Kinney is a sophomore on the football team at Assumption, and he plays Offensive Tackle. Mitch stands at 6’9″, weighing around 300 pounds. Mitch has been hurt, with separated and torn shoulders, with dislocated fingers, with broken bones, and aches and pains all over. Mitch has also been told he’s “too skinny to play offensive line” and “is from Massachusetts” and can’t play big time football. Now Mitch is a successful member of the football team at Division II Assumption. A school who has played in multiple NCAA Division II playoff games the past two years. Mitchell says, “I have been told I won’t succeed by many people, but I started to realize that the people who are doubting me are either too scared or too weak to do what I’m doing and to be in the position I’m in. And that allows me to use that negative attention and turn it into aggression and positive outcomes.”
Shaquem Griffin is a very inspiring story to football players around the world, but especially college football players. Kinney says Shaquem Griffin motivates him “because I see what he deals with on the daily, whether it’s from people in home town, people in college and now in the media world-wide and I see how he uses it as motivation.” Kinney also adds that Griffin is “constantly staying positive and uses the people who doubt him as his motivation.” Kinney stated if he was blocking Griffin, it would be very hard because “Shaquem has a very unique skill set, unlike most others. He’s quick, strong, fast, and with one hand he uses it very well, and with his quickness, he has an advantage of having more space when he is pressing the quarterback.” Kinney also added that “He’s adapted to only having one hand and he has shown he can play at the next level and be an actual competitor.” Griffin is quite the role model for College Football players but also football players all over the country. What he does on a daily basis is nothing short of unbelievable, and I wish him luck in the National Football League.
Like Shaquem Griffin said, “At the end of the day if you have one hand or 30 hands, you can do anything you set your mind to.” I think we can all be motivated by that.