Shaquem Griffin-The Orlando Times
Perseverance, Dedication And Determination Fuel UCF’s Shaquem Griffin
BY DEVIN HEFLIN
ORLANDO - With an undefeated season, the UCF Knights football team makes history for their historic campus. The University of Central Florida was first established as Florida Technical University on June 10, 1963, endowed by the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral.
Today, the University houses 56,083 students in various fields. The University encourages excellence, despite life’s sometimes trying endeavors.
Shaquem Griffin was four years old when he lost his left hand. Griffin’s left hand was amputated as the result of amniotic band syndrome, a congenital birth defect that occurs in about one in every 1,200 births.
Griffin however has not allowed this defect to affect his success. Though he lost his hand, he continues to win on the field, helping produce an undefeated season for the UCF Knights football team.
The UCF Knights are set to face the Auburn Tigers in the Annual Peach Bowl in Atlanta on January 1. Griffin, already an NFL prospect like his twin Brother, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Shaquill, will play in this year’s bowl.
Griffin’s drive remains undefeated both on and off the field.
Playing with one hand isn't the problem for Shaquem. Convincing other people he can do it has been the bigger hurdle on his journey. He was born sixteen seconds after his twin brother and has possessed, along with his twin, a lifelong passion for playing ball.
Prior to his surgery, Griffin only remembers pulling his red wagon through the hospital doors before his planned procedure as a toddler. His mother, Tangie recalls that he asked, “When can I play football again?” after his surgery, despite the removal of his hand.
With the doctor's approval, Shaquem went back to daycare with this brother just 24 hours after surgery. Tangie had her concerns. Would "Quem" be OK? How would other kids respond? How would his teachers respond?
All of her questions were soon answered when she picked her boys up from school. She remembers watching Shaquem barreling toward her with a football cradled in his arm next to his bloody bandage and a flutter of his classmates running behind him.
"Of course that freaked me out," she said. "He's looking and showing me the ball and he's fine. We bandaged him back up and went on from there."
A St .Petersburg, FL native, the Griffin brothers grew up playing football together. The pair graduated Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg.
Their father, Terry, taught both of them how to catch and threw the ball to each of the brothers with equal force.
"He didn't want me to make any excuses for why I couldn't catch the ball," Shaquem said. "I took a couple footballs to the face before I learned to catch." Griffin said.
The word "can't" was banned from Shaquem's vocabulary early. His father showed him how to mow the lawn, rake the leaves and even bench press with one hand. Shaquem used a book to help him execute weightlifting and push-ups alongside Shaquill. Now he uses a prosthetic hand for workouts, driving and almost every other task except to play football.
He and his brother have seen their share of doubters throughout the years. As a high school athlete, Shaquill turned down offers from bigger schools that wouldn't give his brother a spot on the team.
Griffin watched his brother Shaquill from the sidelines for most of his first three seasons at UCF, before both the linebacker and cornerback began playing side by side with one another. The younger Griffin is a redshirt junior and has one more year before the possibility of professional ball play.
As a redshirt junior he racked up 92 total tackles, 11.5 sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles, becoming the 2016 AAC Defensive Player of the Year. This year, he has 56 total tackles, one interception and two forced fumbles, spurring the Knights 12-0 record.
Former UCF Coach George O’Leary brought the Griffin brothers onto the team and it was under the coaching of current outgoing coach Scott Frost that the younger Griffin started.
"I'm happy for him because when he's out there, you don't know he's got one hand unless you're really looking because he's a beast." said UCF defensive coordinator Erik Chinander.
Griffin has acquired many accolades during both his high school and football play.
As a senior, Griffin has:
• 2017 All-Conference First Team in The American
• Started 12 games at linebacker
• Third on the team with 62 tackles, which includes 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks
• Registered one interception, three pass breakup and nine QB hurries
• Recovered two fumbles and forced two fumbles
• FIU 8/31: Collected three tackles, including one for loss
• at Maryland 9/23: Had three tackles, including one for loss
• Memphis 9/30: Tallied eight tackles, including five unassisted and one sack, one forced fumble and one QB hurry
• at Cincinnati 10/7: Contributed six tackles along with one sack and one QB hurry
• ECU 10/14: Recorded six tackles, including three unassisted and one sack
• at Navy 10/21: Set a season-best with 10 tackles, including five unassisted
• Austin Peay 10/28: Had a fumble recovery and 20-yard return along with one tackle and one QB hurry
• at SMU 11/4: Notched two tackles and two QB hurries
• UConn 11/11: Amassed five tackles, one sack and one QB hurry
• at Temple 11/18: Registered three tackles, one forced fumble and an interception return for 22 yards
• South Florida 11/24: Notched nine tackles, including six solo stop and a half sack, two QB hurries and a pass breakup
• Memphis 12/2: Accounted for six tackles, including four unassisted and two sacks, recovered a fumble, and registered a QB hurry and pass breakup
In High School:
-Received three stars from Rivals and ESPN
• Ranked as the No. 92 safety in the nation by ESPN
• Earned a spot on the 2012 class 5A all-state second team
• Named to the 2012 Tampa Bay Times All-Suncoast Second Team
• Selected to the 2013 U.S. Under-19 National Team, assembled by USA Football, and in the Team USA vs. The World International Bowl Feb. 5, made ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 with a memorable interception in the redzone
• Competed in the 2012 Florida Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game
• Listed at No. 42 on the Orlando Sentinel 2013 Midwest Florida Super60
• Amassed 72 tackles with 12 break-ups and one sack in 2012
• Had 61 tackles, nine break-ups, two forced fumbles and one interception as a junior
• Participated in the 2011 Under Armour Combine
• Member of the 7-on-7 Team Tampa undefeated and state championship squad
• Also ran track for Lakewood, competing in the 4x100, discus, triple jump and shot put, and received interest for track from LSU, Miami and Purdue
• Was the Tampa Bay Times Track and Field Athlete of the Year in Pinellas County in the spring of 2012 as he won the state title in the triple jump and broke two school records
• In all, earned four letters in track and three in football as a safety
Outside of playing on the field, Griffin and his brother make a difference in daily life. The brothers started their own youth track club in St. Petersburg, which they still operate each summer. Earlier in the spring, before football workouts, the two worked for their hometown R Club, which serves a similar mission to the YMCA providing a variety of programs to support students.
When Scott Frost met Griffin after arriving as head coach last year, he says, “I wondered how he could function with just one hand.” “After two practices,” Frost continues, “it wasn’t even an issue.”
Shaquem Griffin refuses to be defeated on and off the field and his example is one of perseverance and diligence.