Shaquem Griffin is used to being doubted. Playing football with one hand creates skeptics.
But the Central Florida linebacker, who has now been invited to the 2018 NFL Draft, said that the support he’s felt during his career has helped buoy him.
“I was a guy who was under the radar and who they didn’t believe in at first, but I feel like they’re starting to believe now,” Griffin said after his pro day workout, via Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel. “I have the entire nation behind me now.”
Griffin is more than just an inspirational story, though even if that’s all he was that would be plenty. Yesterday was another chance to show his football skills to scouts, the same ones who initially weren’t going to invite him to the Scouting Combine before relenting.
But his tale of overcoming the birth defect that cost him his left hand when he was 4 years old wasn’t enough for some, and he admitted that not being invited to the Combine at first was difficult for him.
“I was disappointed I wasn’t invited at first, but it wasn’t just me; it was the entire nation,” Griffin said. “At first, I put out a tweet when I wasn’t invited and the entire nation got behind me. They weren’t happy about it, either. . . . I want to thank everybody who got behind me, and I’m still giving them thanks because the job is not done yet.”
The 4.38-second 40-yard dash and 20 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press got everyone’s attention in Indianapolis, as well as game tape that shows him helping his team to an undefeated season with his pass-rush skills and playmaking.
“Everybody is late to the party,” teammate Mike Hughes said. “Everyone who lives in Orlando and roots for UCF knows what Shaquem is capable of and now the whole world is starting to realize it.”
While he’s not expected to be drafted in the first round, his story of persistence won’t go bad if he has to stay in Dallas an extra night before finding his new team on the second or even third day of the proceedings. And those who know him best are glad to see others realizing that.