Week 237 (28 April - 4 May 2018)
The NFL Draft often provides twists and turns that excite and frustrate fans in equal measure. Franchises choose to move up or down, depending on need, resulting in highly tense and often emotional scenes. However, interest usually dies down by the third and final day, when the majority of high-profile college athletes have been recruited.
This year though, the world witnessed a historic moment when Shaquem Griffin defied the odds to become the first one-handed athlete to be selected by an NFL franchise when he was picked by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Griffin had to have his hand amputated when he was just four years old, having been born with a condition that prevented his fingers from fully developing. Even with one hand, he always dreamed of playing in the NFL.
“One day I’m going to be called ‘Shaquem Griffin the football player’ and not ‘Shaquem Griffin the one-hand wonder’,” he said after the Draft. “I don’t need that name. Just call me Shaquem Griffin the football player. I’m good with that.
"I want to show the entire world, no matter [if you have] one hand, two hands, if you're a ball player, you just play ball."
Griffin’s talent, commitment and sheer strength have always been clear to see. As a linebacker for the University of Central Florida, Griffin won the AAC Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, and was an integral figure in his college team’s unbeaten run last season. Using a prosthetic hand, Griffin impressed at the NFL Combine, bench-pressing 225lb 20 times, three more than his identical twin Shaquill, who was drafted by the Seahawks last year.
Even with these impressive achievements, the chances of being drafted are slim. Making it to the NFL is a dream realised by very few aspiring players. Only 1.6% of college seniors playing American football get drafted, and Griffin faced constant doubts as to whether his impairment would prevent him from playing in the NFL.
But Griffin wasn’t discouraged and instead set out to prove himself as capable as any other player on the team.
“My purpose is to be able to set a standard and get away from people setting limitations on others," Griffin said. "I never want to stop helping people and inspiring people to be the best that they can be. Football doesn't define Shaquem Griffin. It's who we can help that defines us."
For his determination and hard work, and for inspiring others to pursue their dreams, Shaquem Griffin is JTA Communicator of the Week.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons