Miami Dolphins

One-handed UCF star plans to inspire — and dominate in the NFL

Coach Scott Frost of UCF Knights celebrates with Shaquem Griffin (18) after defeating Auburn to win the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Coach Scott Frost of UCF Knights celebrates with Shaquem Griffin (18) after defeating Auburn to win the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Getty Images

Shaquem Griffin has been told he will fail more times than he can count on his fingers.

Which is five, not 10. And that’s the whole point.

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.

“I remember there was a time I had a little league coach that told me this game is for two-handed players,” Griffin, a draft-eligible linebacker from Central Florida said at the Senior Bowl Tuesday. “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.”

Griffin can do that. Anyone who watched UCF’s Cinderella season knows that. Griffin was a dynamo has last two years in Orlando, recording 18 1/2 sacks, 33 1/2 tackles for loss and forcing five fumbles.

Still, no matter how well he played, NFL coaches, GMs and scouts will need more to be convinced that he is worthy of a high draft pick this week. Griffin’s mission: To make them all forget that he only has one hand.

“They just really want to see what I can do,” Griffin said. “They want I react when it comes to different defenses. Not all just pass-rushing, but if I can be a stack linebacker, if I can move around, if I have good feet and hips. I think the things they want to see is the things that I can do well. Want to show them all this week.”

Former Miami Hurricanes and Cleveland Browns head coach Butch Davis talks after FIU lost its season opener to UCF

The on-field work is important. But where Griffin really has an edge is in the one-on-one meetings with teams. In a way, a lifetime of doubters has prepared him for this moment. He will be poked and prodded, both physically and mentally, by all 32 teams in the next three months.

But based on his on-the-record sessions with reporters this week, he will likely ace those interviews. He is simply a likable, inspiring guy — and that’s part of his sales pitch.

“They’re not only going to get a guy who can play football but a guy who can change the environment, not only for himself but for people around him,” Griffin said. “Not only the players in the stadium but the city and the state itself. ... Whoever takes me is going to get a special player.”

And he will convince skeptics, one at a time, if it comes to that. He has been since little league.

“I remember it was the game before the playoffs, I had the game-winning pick,” Griffin said. “That was my first pick. I was seven years, and I had my first pick ever. I’m pretty sure that coach is looking at me, ‘You know what, that’s a guy who really changed the game.’”

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

Related stories from Miami Herald