Shaquem Griffin has overcome a lot, but he wants to be known for his play on the field rather than only having one hand. Griffin has spent most of his life with one hand, as he had surgery when he was four to remove his left hand. Prior to his birth, he was diagnosed with Amniotic Band Syndrome, as the umbilical cord wrapped around his wrist in the womb, preventing his left hand from fully developing.
Griffin has wowed fans, coaches and players at every level he has played. Griffin was the story of NFL pre-draft events like the Senior Bowl and NFL combine. Griffin is happy to explain to anyone all that he has overcome, but does not want to be referenced as having a handicap.
“I don’t words like [handicapped],” Griffin told the Today Show (via Orlando Sentinel). “I can do anything anybody else can do…I’m going to put all [the discussion about having one hand] to rest. One day they’re going to talk about Shaquem Griffin the football player, not Shaquem Griffin the one-handed wonder.”
For everyone watching Griffin thus far, he has done just that.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Griffin Was in So Much Pain as a Child He Wanted to Cut His Hand Off
One night, Griffin’s mother, Tangie, found her sun in the kitchen reaching for a knife. His hand was in so much pain that he wanted to cut his remaining fingers off. ESPN detailed the tipping point that caused Griffin’s parents to schedule a surgery to remove Griffin’s hand when he was four.
He was 4 years old, the hand a casualty of amniotic band syndrome, a congenital disorder that occurs in roughly 1 in every 1,200 births. While she was pregnant, Tangie had been told the amniotic sac had entangled with her son’s wrist, but because Shaquem was a twin, the risk was too great to operate. When the boys were born — Shaquill first at 6.3 pounds, then Shaquem at 6.4 — Tangie and Terry discovered the consequence of forgoing the operation. The tissue in Shaquem’s left hand was soft, his fingers like a glove filled with jelly.
‘Everything I touched burned,’ recalls Shaquem of his first four years.
The pain was so unbearable that he walked into the kitchen in the middle of the night sobbing and reached for a butcher’s knife. But his mother interrupted the plan. “Cut them off,” he begged, waving his fingers. ‘Please.’
‘I massaged his hand, tried to ease his pain any way I could,’ says Tangie, who called the next day to schedule surgery.
2. Griffin Was Diagnosed With Amniotic Band Syndrome, But Surgery Prior to His Birth Was Deemed Too Risky
Doctors knew there could be complications with the birth of Shaquem and his twin brother, Shaquill Griffin. Shaquem was diagnosed with Amniotic Band Syndrome when he was still in the womb. According to ESPN, doctors deemed surgery too risky to perform prior to his birth.
Essentially, the umbilical cord was wrapped around Griffin’s wrist now allowing his fingers to fully grow. Here’s how Web MD describes the condition.
Amniotic band syndrome is a well-known condition potentially associated with a variety of different birth defects. It is important to note that no two cases of amniotic band syndrome are exactly alike and that the associated symptoms are highly variable. The severity of amniotic band syndrome can range from a single, isolated finding to multiple, disfiguring complications. The arms and legs are most often affected. The head and face and, in some cases, various internal organs can also be affected. The exact cause of amniotic band syndrome is unknown and controversial. Two main theories have been proposed to explain the development of the disorder. One theory attributes the disorder to causes that arise internally within the fetus (intrinsic theory); the other theory attributes the disorder to causes acting upon the fetus externally (extrinsic theory). It is likely that both internal and external factors can cause amniotic band syndrome, and that the cause of the disorder in one infant may be different from the cause in another infant.
3. Griffin Used a Prosthetic to Bench Press 225 Pounds 20 Times at the Combine After Not Initially Being Invited
Griffin went from not being invited to the 2018 NFL combine to putting on an absolute clinic. Griffin grew up lifting weights thanks to his father, Terry, who helped construct different instruments for his son to use to lift weights. Griffin used a prosthetic to participate in the bench press drill at the combine, and benched 225 pounds 20 times which ranked him 11th among all linebackers. After the event, Griffin noted he was expecting to be in the single digits, and even surprised himself.
Griffin did not stop there as his 40 yard dash performance was equally as impressive. Griffin ran a 4.38, which equated to the top 40 time of any linebacker since the NFL began recording the position group running at the combine. Griffin’s performance tied him for ninth among 2018 prospects across all position groups.
4. Griffin Wants to Prove He Is More Than a “Feel-Good Story” About a Player With 1 Hand
Griffin’s rise to national prominence started with the linebacker being one of the key players on UCF’s undefeated season capped with a Peach Bowl win over Auburn. Griffin became the story of Senior Bowl week thanks to his versatility, play on the field and infectious personality. From there, Griffin campaigned to be included as an NFL combine participant, and the league made him a late addition. Griffin does not mind the attention he gets for being unique, but he is looking to be defined by more than having one hand.
“I’m definitely not just a feel-good story,” Griffin told the Tampa Bay Times. “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.'”
5. Shaquem’s Brother, Shaquill, Was Recruited by a Number of Top Schools, But UCF Was One of the Few Programs to Offer Scholarships to Both Players
Tangie Griffin noted to ESPN that Shaquill Griffin had received a number of offers from top college football programs including Florida, Florida State and Miami. The only problem was they did not want to make an offer to his brother, thinking his play would be limited with one hand. Coaches encouraged Shaquill Griffin to consider going to a different college from his brother. He opted to turn down those offers to play alongside his brother at UCF.
Griffin may have gotten a scholarship at UCF, but he was not seeing much of the field. According to the Orlando Sentinel, he considered transferring after being buried on the depth chart. This all changed after Scott Frost took over at UCF. Former UCF defensive coordinator Erik Chinander explained how Griffin kept playing himself onto the field once he was given the opportunity.
“To be honest, before I got here, people kind of said, ‘Hey, there’s a kid running around out there, he’s got [one] hand, can’t play,'” Chinander told the Orlando Sentinel. “When I got here, I said, ‘Ah, let’s see. I don’t know, maybe they’re right and he can’t play.’ We put him out with third string and then second string and then first string and he just said, ‘I’m taking this job.’ I’m happy for him because when he’s out there, you don’t know he’s got one hand unless you’re really looking because he’s a beast.”