Saturday, September 22, 2018
  • Bucs Beat
  • Rick Stroud and Greg Auman

Lakewood’s Shaquem Griffin puts no limits on his NFL potential

MOBILE, Ala. — While Lakewood's Shaquem Griffin sat at the podium Tuesday morning, taking questions with a confident smile at the Senior Bowl for the second day in a row, his arms were rested in front of him, his right hand over his left arm.

It's entirely possible that a reporter would ask the linebacker about leading UCF to an undefeated season without even realizing he's done so with only one hand. For Griffin, that's the whole idea.

"There is no limit to what I can do," Griffin said, asked what he wants to show NFL scouts this week in practice and in Saturday's game. "If they need me to pass-rush, pass-rush. If they need me to take on blocks, I'll take on blocks. If they need me to cover, I'm going to cover. If they need me to run fast, I'm pretty sure I can run fast. I want all the scouts to know there's no limitations to what I can do. If they need me to play kicker, let me warm up my leg. I can do that, too."

This is Griffin, his smile as relentless as his motor in piling up 166 tackles — 33.5 for losses — with the Knights in the last two years. Asked how many times he was told growing up that he couldn't do something, he says "I definitely can't count on my fingers."

That means a little more coming from Griffin, who had his left hand amputated at age 4 after suffering a rare prenatal condition. He and twin brother Shaquill were inseparable, in the womb, at Lakewood and at UCF, until Shaquill was drafted by the Seahawks in the third round last year, starting 11 games and getting 59 tackles for Seattle as a rookie.

Sibling rivalry is a powerful motivator for Griffin. Reminded that Shaquill had some off-the-charts measurables a year ago — 11-foot broad jump and 38.5-inch vertical, 4.38-second 40-yard time — the confidence swells up in Shaquem.

"What my brother did was cute," he said, pausing for laughter. "What I'm trying to bring to the table is competition once again. I'm finally able to put myself on a stage where I can show him what I can really do."

RELATED: Griffin twins go their separate ways for the first time

Griffin learned from watching his twin go through the draft process, so he has the confidence of familiarity now. Shaquem is undersized for an NFL linebacker, officially measured at 6 feet, 223 pounds at Tuesday's weigh-in. As with his hand, he'll ask that you evaluate him on his production — in a 49-42 thriller against USF, he had a team-high nine tackles, and in UCF's huge 34-27 win against Auburn in the Peach Bowl, he had a game-high 12 tackles, with 1.5 sacks among his 3.5 tackles for loss. How does that measure up?

That remains to be seen, though Griffin arrived in Mobile without an invitation to the NFL Combine March 2-5 in Indianapolis.

Griffin's favorite NFL player to watch is Denver's Von Miller, who has much more size as as a linebacker but has helped Griffin, an avid film watcher who tries to pick up the best from the best to help his game.

"Watching his pass rush is unbelievable," he said. "The way he uses his  speed, his power, it reminds me of myself because he has an amazing first step. He's very explosive and light on his feet. He had cleats with feathers on them. Everything he does, I like to take it upon myself to use it. When you can get o-linemen guessing about what you're going to do, that means you're already winning before you start."

Two years ago, Griffin was just a special-teams player, totaling nine tackles as a redshirt sophomore on a UCF team that went 0-12. He has made the same remarkable ascent as the Knights, earning conference Defensive Player of the Year honors last year and leading an undefeated season as a senior. So if he's told he might only be a special-teams player in the NFL, that's not going to stop him.

"At some point, your physical ability, it can't be the only thing you rely on," Griffin said. "Having faith and trust that one day things will be greater, it sometimes is the one thing you need to stay positive in a negative situation."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] Follow @gregauman