Shaquem Griffin immediately sets the record straight on playing football with one hand before anyone tries to give him an excuse. As Griffin explains, he does not have a disability, as that would mean he is unable to perform as he wishes. Griffin proved just that at the 2018 NFL Combine as he benched pressed 225 pounds 20 times using a prosthetic.
Griffin is on the verge of reaching his NFL dream, but just a few years ago it looked unlikely. Griffin spent his first three years at UCF well down the depth chart as a secondary player. This all changed after Scott Frost got to UCF, and decided to play Griffin at linebacker to see what would happen. The position change allowed Griffin to fly all over the field using his speed to get into the backfield, and also drop back in coverage. From that point forward, UCF could not get him on the field enough as the Knights finished 13-0 with Griffin playing a key role in UCF’s success. Now Griffin is on the verge of joining his twin brother, Shaquill Griffin, in the NFL.
If Griffin were a real estate agent, you would want him to sell your house. If he was an accountant, you would have him do your taxes. Griffin happens to play football, and is proving that he will succeed at anything he sets out to do.
Learn how Griffin lost his hand, and why he never looked back.
1. Griffin Was Diagnosed With a Prenatal Condition Called Amniotic Band Syndrome
The Griffins were made aware that their son was at risk of damage to his hand prior to his birth. According to Sports Illustrated, an ultrasound revealed there was a fibrous strand wrapped around Griffin’s left hand. Doctors could have tried to move it, but would have risked wrapping the strand around the necks of the twins. Sports Illustrated details the predicament Griffin’s parents faced prior to his birth.
When Tangie Griffin was pregnant, an ultrasound revealed that a fibrous strand of the amniotic membrane had wrapped around Shaquem’s left wrist. If left alone, the band would keep his left hand from developing. Doctors could try to move the band, but if they did, the band might wrap around the neck of one of the twins. “I had a choice to say, ‘Let’s try it and pray everything is O.K.,’ ” Tangie says. “But in my mind, that is not an option at all.” So Tangie and her husband, Terry, discussed how they’d parent a son with a malformed left hand or no left hand at all. Their conclusion? Treat him no differently than their other children. Never let him consider his condition a hindrance.
2. Griffin Had His Hand Amputated When He Was 4 Years Old
Griffin’s mother, Tangie Griffin, found her four-year-old son in the kitchen in the middle of the night. Griffin had a knife in his hand ready to cut off the remaining digits of his hand because he was in so much pain. The next day she took her son to have surgery to remove his hand. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples detailed the painful night.
‘When I got into the kitchen, he had a knife in his hand,’ Tangie says. ‘He was getting ready to cut the digits off.’ Tangie took the knife away, brought a crying Shaquem back to his room and rocked him to sleep.
The next morning, Tangie took Shaquem to the doctor’s office. He remembers dragging a red wagon through the office, and he remembers falling asleep. When he woke, the mass of tissue where his left hand should have been was gone.
After the surgery, Griffin felt relief as the pain was gone, even though many worried he would be looked at differently with just one hand.
3. Griffin’s Twin Brother, Shaquill Griffin, Is a Cornerback For the Seattle Seahawks
Since Griffin was red-shirted, his twin brother Shaquill Griffin got a year head start on the NFL. The Seahawks drafted him in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft with the No. 90 pick. Tangie Griffin described her sons’ relationship in an interview with the Seattle Times.
“What one felt, the other felt the same thing,” Tangie Griffin told the Seattle Times. “It’s almost as if one gives a look, and the other knows exactly what you’re saying. They’re so close it’s like, ‘I know what you’re doing every minute.’ …Shaquill is in Seattle and Shaquem is in Florida, and they were talking on FaceTime and had the same thing on one day, and they took a picture and sent it to the family group chat. They were wearing white Adidas pullovers, one of them had on long, black Adidas sweatpants, and the other had on similar sweatpants, but shorter. That was the only difference.”
For the first year of their life, the twins were separated as Griffin played his senior season at UCF, while his brother played his rookie NFL season in Seattle.
“When it comes to each other, we’re relentless,” Griffin told the Seattle Times. “We’ll go to battle together no matter what it is, what the situation is. You always have family arguments, but we never fought. It was always us against anybody. We live our life like that.”
4. His Father Built Different Instruments to Help Griffin Lift Weights
Griffin’s parents were determined to empower their son, rather than use his hand as an excuse not to accomplish anything he dreamed. Griffin’s father, Terry Griffin, constructed different instruments to attach to his son’s arm to enable him to lift weights to get stronger on the football field. Sports Illustrated detailed his development.
Determined to help Shaquem work out the way his teammates did, Terry built contraptions to allow him to do push-ups, curls and bench presses. ‘Like a mad scientist,’ she says. There was something Terry called “the book” that attached to Shaquem’s left forearm and helped Shaquem stabilize both arms for push-ups and bench presses. A strap device helped Shaquem do biceps curls. Terry welded another contraption onto a weight bar so Shaquem could bench-press more naturally. He grew stronger and stronger, pushing his bench press to 260 pounds as a high school senior. When he came to UCF he got fitted for a prosthetic. It allowed him to do his first pull-up. Tangie cried when she heard news of that milestone. When he first started bench-pressing with the prosthetic, he could only lift the 45-pound bar. The weight rose quickly, though. One day early in his freshman year, Shaquem banged out reps at 185 pounds. So he added 20 more. Still easy. He then put two 45-pound plates on each side of the bar. He now had 225, the amount players lift at the NFL combine. He could lift it without any assistance.
5. During the NFL Combine, Griffin Bench Pressed 225 Pounds 20 Times Using a Prosthetic
Thanks to the dedication of his father, Griffin grew up lifting weights. His hard work paid off as Griffin was able to reach 20 reps during the 2018 NFL Combine. Griffin explained to NFL.com that he was able to feed off the energy in the room.
Just starting that off, I just felt the energy from everybody. I mean, my adrenaline was going through the roof and I didn’t feel like I needed to stop. So as soon as I heard I was at 16, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m going for 20.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to change my fitness regimen, I’ve got to grind this out right here.’ It felt amazing to reach that goal…I mean, it’s amazing. Obviously a lot of people didn’t feel like I was going to do the bench press and for me to be able to put a prosthetic on — I remember when I first started using the prosthetic, I had just the bar and I was shaking all over the place when I first got to UCF and being able to put up numbers like that, with good competition with everybody, it’s amazing because it just goes to show how much hard work I put in to get this level.