Talented Griffin plays big, wins big

Fred Jeter | 1/19/2018, 5:54 p.m.
The University of Central Florida this season won all of its football games, going 13-0. At the same time, Knights ...
University of Central Florida Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was the Peach Bowl MVP.

The University of Central Florida this season won all of its football games, going 13-0.

At the same time, Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin won the hearts of all who saw him.

Griffin drew attention for two clear reasons — his aggressive, physical play and because he competes with just one hand.

The senior’s left hand was amputated when he was 4 years old because of a rare congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome.

Griffin’s latest achievement came New Year’s Day when he was named Defensive MVP following the Knights’ 34-27 Peach Bowl victory over Auburn in Atlanta.

The 6-foot-2, 229-pounder was like a wrecking ball in the middle of UCF’s defense. He was credited with 12 tackles, 1½ sacks and 10 quarterback hurries.

“Shaquem played like his dreadlocks were on fire,” UCF Coach Scott Frost told the Orlando Sentinel.

Griffin was joined in Coach Frost’s 2016 defensive alignment with his identical twin brother, Shaquill, a cornerback. Shaquill now plays for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

The twins were born to Tangie and Terry Griffin 16 seconds apart 22 years ago in St. Petersburg, Fla. Early on, the word “can’t” was eliminated from the family vocabulary. Young Shaquem went about his chores, such as mowing the yard and running errands, like nothing had happened.

The twins starred in football at Lakewood High School, earning scholarships to UCF in Orlando. Shaquem was also a standout in track and field, triple jumping nearly 50 feet.

At UCF, Shaquem was strictly a back-up during his first three years (one as a redshirt). Then he broke loose.

Excelling at pressuring quarterbacks, Shaquem was American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a junior. This season, he repeated as an All-AAC selection.

The Peach Bowl MVP was the crowning touch.

“I fought so hard to get where I’m at today,” he told the Sentinel. “And it’s kind of good where I can actually showcase my talents.”

Griffin uses a prosthetic left hand for weight lifting, driving a car — everything except football.

On a down note, Griffin has not yet been invited to work out at the NFL’s Scouting Combine Feb. 27 through March 5 in Indianapolis, Ind.

The Combine isn’t a prerequisite for making the NFL, but it sure improves one’s chances.

Responding on twitter, Griffin said, “Tell me what I need to do.”

Point is, don’t tell him what he “can’t” do, not when he’s so good at showing you what he can. 

Griffin will have at least one more chance to impress NFL scouts prior to the draft. He has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 27 in Mobile, Ala.