Shaquem's Dream (Calder Barnard)

The next time you wake up complaining of that “horrible” hangover from drinking the night before, just think of what Shaquem Griffin has dealt with his entire life. Born 2 minutes after his twin brother, Shaquill, in 1995, Shaquem was born with amniotic band syndrome, which caused his fingers on his left hand to not fully develop. He was dealing with such excruciating pain that, when he was 4 years old his mom found him in the kitchen trying to litteraly cut his own fingers off. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult that situation was to all involved. The following day his parents made an appointment for Shaquem to get his left hand amputated. For any normal child, having only 1 hand would cause the end of a lot extra curricular activities, however thankfully for all of us, Shaquem Griffin was not a normal child. He turned this unfortunate situation into motivation, and from then on he would NEVER give up on his dreams and would NOT take no as an answer.

Shaquem’s dream of playing in the NFL hit a huge snag during his redshirt freshman season at UCF (his twin brother rejected other scholarship offers so that he could play side by side with his brother) where he got demoted all the way to the scout team…..AGAIN Shaquem didn’t give up. The next season(2015), UCF endured a winless season…..AGAIN he didn’t give up. A new coach, and new hope led to successful Junior and Senior seasons for Shaquem, in which he was named AAC Defensive Player of the Year and helped lead his team to an undefeated season and a self proclaimed (but controversial) National Championship. So……everything else since then has come up roses right?! WRONG.

Because he only has one hand and is undersized for an NFL linebacker, a lot of NFL scouts were not interested in Shaquem. A great story only gets you so far, and it doesn’t even guarantee you an invitation to the Scouting Combine. Finally, after a lot of work, he got an invitation to show his skills, and boy did he show out. He ran a 4.38 – 40 time (fastest time a linebacker has ever run) and he did 20 reps on the bench press which is WAAAAAAAY more than anyone except for Shaquem expected out of him. Long story short, he crushed this opportunity, the same way that he has crushed every opportunity before that. This kid is a class act and an absolute winner.

Fast forward to 2 weeks ago, the NFL draft, where futures are made and hopes are crushed. If Shaquem had 2 hands, my personal opinion is that he would have easily gone in the top 15 picks (even though he is undersized). As the draft unfolded, players went left and right, guys with torn ACLs even got drafted ahead of Shaquem (to my 49ers 😫) and 4 rounds in the books he still hadn’t been picked. I have been intrigued by his persistence and have followed Shaquem’s path to the NFL, and I promised myself that I would watch and root for him and the team he got drafted by……. Well every team but the rival Seahawks of course. Well, it seems like life at times tests you, because who drafted him, the Seahawks of course. But as upsetting as that was to me being a 49er fan, I couldn’t be more proud and happy for the kid who lost his left hand when he was 4 years old. He is even reunited with his twin brother in Seattle, and has an amazing coach who believes in him in Pete Carroll.

Although Shaquem’s story has only really begun, he has been through more ups and downs already than most people go through in their entire lives. I know that betting in Vegas the odds are roughly 50/50, but I will tell you NEVER to bet against either Griffin brother, but ESPECIALLY not the one that lost his left hand. He plays with a passion and attitude that he has nothing to lose, because he has lost so much already and has persevered through it all to continually finish on top. So, in closing, I will do this in honor of Shaquem Griffin……go Seahawks! (Ughh….. I feel dirty saying those 2 words next to each other).

Thank you for reading my piece on an athlete and a person who is larger than life, and a role model for everyone that has an aliment or an amputation and feels like giving up. Here’s rooting for you Shaquem!!


Calder Barnard