UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin was the talk of last month's NFL combine. The one-handed prospect, who wasn't expected to test well given his obvious physical limitations, put the league on notice with a blistering 4.38 forty time and an incredible 20 reps on the bench press.
Griffin used a prosthetic to help him on the bench, and his determination shone through as he put up a top ten score for his position, bettering the top three linebacker prospects Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds and Rashaan Evans.
His stellar showing prompted an enormous surge in his draft stock, and on in the next week, Griffin will become one of the unlikeliest, yet most popular draft picks in memory.
The 2016 AAC defensive player of the year has earned an invite to the draft, and he'll likely be one of the most in demand interviewees outside of the top quarterback prospects.
"It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said of his journey so far, per the Tampa Bay Times. "I've been all over the place, meeting the people I've met and talking about my story to make everybody understanding of who I am,''.
That's something that is very important to the 22-year-old; ensuring that people see him as more than just 'the one-handed linebacker'.
Griffin was born with a congenital birth defect that prevented his left hand from fully forming, forcing him to have it amputated when he was 4. He's overcome countless challenges, learned to play football using only one hand, and whether he likes it or not he's already become the feel-good story of the NFL.
But, that's not what defines him as a player and he wants everyone to know that.
"I'm definitely not just a feel-good story," Griffin said. "A feel-good story doesn't make it this far. I had to be a football player. I had to make plays. A feel-good story is he has one hand and plays football. I worked my butt off so what they could say about me is, 'He makes plays, he makes a difference and is a guy who can make turnovers. He's a guy who can contribute to us winning.'"
He's not wrong about being a playmaker either; Griffin contributed enormously in three years as a starter at UCF, notching 191 tackles including 33.5 for loss, three interceptions and four forced fumbles.
He's a difference maker with a natural feel for the game on the defensive side of the ball and he will make plays in the NFL, he's too good of an athlete and too smart a player not too.
And, whilst he won't hear his name called in round one of the draft, he presents enormous value as a third or fourth round pick. It will be a special moment for Griffin, and a watershed moment for the league when his name is called and he walks onto the stage to receive his new team's jersey.
"What I'm expecting draft night? All I need is one team to believe,'' he said. "There are 32 of them. I just need one to give me a chance.''
He's not worried about the details or where he lands though, and just can't wait to get back to playing competitive football.
"I just can't wait to be a guy ready to play football,'' Griffin said. "I'm ready to get to the rookie mini camp and get my career started.''
His attitude is outstanding and nobody will want anything but a successful career for this remarkable young man.
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