He was the feel-good story of this draft cycle.
And now UCF’s Shaquem Griffin can finally say it: He’s an NFL player.
The Seattle Seahawks selected Griffin with the 141st overall pick in the fifth round Saturday.
Griffin lost his left hand as a small child, the result of a rare genetic condition. And from the moment he started playing football, he was told he shouldn’t.
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He played the game anyway.
“I remember there was a time I had a little league coach that told me this game is for two-handed players,” Griffin said at the Senior Bowl. “I read plenty of rulebooks and I never seen that rule. Hearing things like that, I had to take it upon myself to make sure that I show them if no matter if I have one hands, two hands or 30 hands, I can play football.”
And Griffin simply dominated.
The 6-foot-1, 227-pound linebacker from St. Petersburg went from special teams ace early in his college career to a bona fide starting linebacker. He started every game in his final two seasons at UCF, recording 154 tackles and a staggering 30 tackles for loss to go along with 17 sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and 13 pass breakups.
Griffin was named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl after recording 12 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
"I don't have a chip on my shoulder," Griffin said according to USA Today. "I have chips. I have a bag of chips. Everyone else can have a chip. I need more than that."
This even after showcasing his skills at both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine — using a prosthetic hand to bench 225 pounds an impressive 20 times and running a 4.38 40-yard dash.
He was one of 22 players who accepted an invitation to attend the draft in Arlington, Texas. He received some of the loudest applause when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell introduced the group one by one on stage at AT&T Stadium on Thursday.
And after waiting two days and 140 picks, he finally knows where he's going. Now he knows it's up to him to prove he can make it in the league. He has the instincts and football IQ to make an immediate impact, even if his career starts as a backup and on special teams.
And what's better: He'll be playing on the same team as his twin brother Shaquill Griffin.
"One day," he told the TODAY show, "I'm going to be called Shaquem Griffin, the football player. Not Shaquem Griffin, the one-handed wonder. I don't need that name."
If he performs at the level he did in college, who knows where he might be a few years down the road?