One-Handed NFL Player Shaquem Griffin’s Story Is One of Determination, Perseverance, and Love


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin is the first and only one-handed NFL player.

When watching a NFL football game, most fans look for things like stats, big plays, and exciting endings. They don’t necessarily pay attention to the individual players. But one player specifically is in the spotlight this NFL season, Shaquem Griffin.

Griffin is a rookie linebacker out of the University of Central Florida, and has all the qualities to become a very successful football player, except for one major setback: he only has one hand. Griffin lost his left hand at the age of four, but he hasn’t let that slow him down, whatsoever.

Griffin suffered from amniotic band syndrome, which occurs when parts of the fetus become entangled in the amniotic sac. In Griffin’s case, the amniotic strands wrapped around his left wrist which altered the development of his hand. This led to the amputation of the hand at the age of four.

But that didn’t stop Griffin from pursuing his dream of playing football. He became a standout player at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he and his twin brother Shaquill were rewarded with scholarships to play at UCF. In fact, Shaquill turned down a scholarship to play for the University of Miami, his “dream school,” so that he could play on the same team as Shaquem.

Shaquill went right in to compete for a starting spot, but Shaquem had to be more patient, sitting his freshman season to elongate his years of eligibility. During his second season as a red shirt freshman, he started the season as a second-string linebacker, but soon moved to third-string, and then finally moved down to the scout team.

But things changed when UCF head coach George O’Leary, who offered the Griffin brothers their scholarships, was fired after the brothers’ first two years and replaced with Scott Frost. Griffin credits his rise in the system to the hiring of Frost who gave him the chance he needed. In his third year playing at UCF, Griffin earned a starting spot and never looked back. In his fourth and last year of eligibility, UCF went undefeated and made it to the Peach Bowl where he won the “2018 Peach Bowl Defensive Player of the Game.”

After the college season is finished, there is much prospective NFL draftees have to do before the NFL draft comes around in late April. There is the NFL Combine, pro days, and individual team workouts. Only the best and brightest of graduating seniors get invited to the NFL Combine, so one might think after the season Shaquem had, he would be invited. But no, Griffin had to “walk on” to the combine and prove that they made a mistake by not inviting him.

And impress he did, Griffin posted the best 40-yard dash time by a linebacker since the NFL started to release official statistics at 4.38 seconds. He also impressed scouts by posting 20 reps on the bench press using a prosthetic hand. Even though he wasn’t projected to go in the early rounds, Griffin was still invited to the draft, waiting until the fifth round to hear his name called, going at pick 141 to the Seattle Seahawks, the team that had drafted his brother the previous year. His selection made him the player with one hand to ever be drafted in the NFL.

Griffin made his preseason debut with the Seahawks on August 9, 2018, against the Indianapolis Colts and lead the Seahawks in tackles with six solos and three assists. He played in the last game of the preseason against the Oakland Raiders, leading the team in tackles once again with four solos and three assists. On September 9, 2018, Griffin was announced as the opening day starter, due to the starter K.J. Wright being out with injury. In his first regular season NFL game, he tallied three solo tackles in a loss to the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado.

Up to this point in the season, Griffin has started one game for the Seattle Seahawks, recording three tackles in that game, and has also appeared in five other games. Additionally, a very popular Gillette commercial featuring Griffin and focusing on his upbringing and the obstacles he has faced has been airing during NFL broadcasts.. So as his rookie season is winding down, it appears Griffin has shown a lot of promise and potential to become a star for years to come.