Shaquem Griffin's remarkable journey to the NFL has been chronicled in a 2019 book. Griffin, who at age 4 had his left hand amputated due to amniotic band syndrome, is also set to see his life unfold on the big screen.
"Wait until you see the movie," Griffin recently said during an interview with CBS Sports. "It's in the works."
The movie will chronicle the journey of Griffin and his twin brother, Shaquill, a former Pro Bowl cornerback who is currently with the Jaguars. It will surely include Griffin's jaw-dropping performance at the 2018 NFL Combine, when he posted a whopping 20 reps in the bench press before running a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, the fastest-ever recorded time for a linebacker at the combine. Griffin, a Team Citi ambassador for their #StareAtGreatness campaign, uses that experience to help inspire the disability community to go after their dreams.
"The perception that everybody had. … 'Maybe he'll do three (bench press reps), maybe he can do five,'" Griffin recalled. "I remember in my head thinking, 'I can do so much more.' … I remember the drastic change when it happened. I always believed in it, but now I need to just show it. Now, being apart of Team Citi, it's giving me the platform to show it more. So there's many of us now being able to showcase that. It's not what's about what we have and not have it's about what we can do, what we believe in ourselves, and now we just want you to believe it too."
Griffin credits his parents for never treating him differently following his amputation. In fact, Griffin said that his parents encouraged him to go outside and play football with his brother the day after he had his surgery.
"I felt so much better, getting over that hill at a very, very early age," Griffin said. "I was only 4, and now that I'm playing football, I wanted to keep playing. We signed up the next summer where I'm playing football and now I'm getting a chance to compete with my brother. I felt like being able to do something that people didn't think was possible was the most life-changing thing. Now, I'm a part of this. Now, when you pick teams, you better pick me up because I'm going to make sure that I'm going to do great things for you and we're going to win games."
Griffin, and his teams, did a lot of winning over the next two decades. At Lakewood High School, he helped deliver his school's first state championship since the 1950s; along with a team title in track and field, Griffin took home a state title in the triple jump. His success on the gridiron led to him turning down Miami to play with his brother at UCF. Under the tutelage of then-Knights coach Scott Frost, Griffin was named the AAC's Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. A year later, with his brother playing for the Seahawks, Griffin helped lead UCF to an undefeated season that was capped off with his MVP performance in the school's Peach Bowl win over Auburn.
His success at USC and at the combine led to Griffin becoming the first one-handed player ever drafted into the NFL. Griffin was selected in the fifth round of the 2018 draft by Seattle, reuniting him with his brother. He not only made Seattle's 53-man roster (after leading the team in tackles during the preseason), Griffin started on defense for Seattle's regular-season opener against the Broncos. He appeared in each of Seattle's 32 regular-season games during his first two seasons. He recorded a sack of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Seattle's 2019 divisional round showdown in Green Bay.
Like Frost, Griffin credits Seahawks Pete Carroll for helping him reach his potential as a football player.
"A lot of similarities," Griffin said of Frost and Carroll. "Them being players' coaches was something big. Pete was a guy that you could go talk to about anything, no matter if it was football or life. Scott Frost was somebody you could talk about anything, no matter if it was football or life. In those two aspects, it allowed us to bring a more strong culture within the locker room.
"It gave us a confidence level. Seeing Coach Pete was like an older Scott Frost. … I remember us playing basketball with Pete. Every Friday, he's playing 7-on-7 with us. …. It's so impressive to see him interact with us, especially at that age. It made me want to be there much, much more."
Griffin, 26, has accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. Along with his achievements noted above, he was also the co-recipient of the 2019 NCAA Inspiration Award. While he is appreciative of each of those awards and accomplishments, Griffin takes far more satisfaction out of helping inspire others with physical disabilities while helping change the narrative of disabled people. Through his life and his work with the #StareAtGreatness campaign, Griffin is hoping to show others that it's not what you have, it's what you are willing to do that is what ultimately matters.
"The things that I'm able to do, the things that I was taught, the competitiveness that was built between having my mom and my dad and my brothers, I already knew what was instilled in me," Griffin said. "It's just showing everybody else. It just goes back to greatness, people just have to start seeing more, and I feel like people seeing more and understanding and embracing what I can do is just bringing more of an awareness of you can't really doubt a book by its cover; you might have to open it up and read it."