Shaquem Griffin disproves doubters again, looks poised to start NFL debut playing with 1 hand

Yahoo Sports

Once a long-shot feel-good story, Shaquem Griffin is now a bonafide NFL player after making the Seattle Seahawks’ roster.

And he might start next week.

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Initially shunned by the NFL combine, Shaquem Griffin looks poised to start in his NFL debut with the Seahawks next week. (AP)
Initially shunned by the NFL combine, Shaquem Griffin looks poised to start in his NFL debut with the Seahawks next week. (AP)

Shaquem Griffin a Seahawk after roster cuts, waivers

The Seahawks set their 53-man roster on Saturday and claimed two players off waivers Sunday afternoon, releasing offensive lineman Rees Odhiambo and defensive lineman Branden Jackson to make roster room. Griffin was not released.

That Griffin made the team is no surprise. The fifth-round linebacker out of UCF who is missing his left hand has flashed the ability that earned him AAC Defensive Player of the Year and second-team All-America honors in college throughout the preseason.

Griffin had a big preseason

He led the Seahawks in tackles during Thursday’s preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders and finished as the team’s leading tackler during the preseason.

“I’m very encouraged,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters of Griffin after Thursday’s game. “He is a wonderful kid, he’s been really busting his tail to figure it out, and how to play in our scheme and all that. I can’t tell you much until I see the film, other than he was very active, just like we would hope.”

NFL doubted Griffin just a few months ago

Just months ago, Griffin’s path to the NFL was far from guaranteed.

While Griffin proved himself in college, many dismissed his prospects as an NFL player because of his missing hand left hand that had to be amputated when he was a young child because it didn’t develop properly.

He wrote a Players’ Tribune piece titled “A Letter to NFL GMs” in March and recounted a youth football experience where an opposing coach tried to keep him off the field.

“It was about my hand,” Griffin wrote. “He said I shouldn’t have been allowed to play football at all. Because football is for two-handed players.”

It’s a stigma that’s stuck with him through football’s highest levels.

Griffin was not initially invited to the NFL scouting combine before stunning scouts and doubters with an incredible workout that included a 4.38 40-yard dash when he did get the call.

Shaquem Griffin, left, will make his NFL debut next Sunday along his brother cornerback Shaquill Griffin. (AP)
Shaquem Griffin, left, will make his NFL debut next Sunday along his brother cornerback Shaquill Griffin. (AP)

Griffin to play alongside his brother Shaquill

At that point, there was no ignoring Griffin. The Seahawks, who drafted and started Griffin’s brother Shaquill Griffin at cornerback last year, decided to take a chance on him in the fifth round of April’s draft.

He might end up one of the steals of the draft. Griffin made an immediate impact in practice, intercepting a Russell Wilson pass during training camp.

He was one of the team’s best players during preseason action. And now he appears likely to start at strongside linebacker in Sunday’s season opener against the Denver Broncos with an injury sidelining regular starter K.J. Wright.

“All the people that doubted him because he doesn’t have a hand? He’s a great player,” Seahawks veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner told USA Today early in training camp. “He’s flying around making plays, he picked off Russ, he’s batting down passes, making sacks.”

A long shot no more, Griffin has overcome a remarkable obstacle to earn his spot at football’s highest level. Where many NFL feel-good stories tend to end with the preseason, Griffin’s will continue next Sunday against the Broncos.

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