Shaquem Griffin's ability to play football without a left hand has made him the talk of the NFL draft. But the former Lakewood High and UCF star is determined to silence such talk with his play.
"It gets tiring," Griffin said today on the TODAY show. "That's what I'm here for. I'm going to put all that to rest. I'm not gonna stop until I do.
"One day, I'm going to be called Shaquem Griffin, the football player. Not Shaquem Griffin, the one-handed wonder. I don't need that name."
Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome, a congenital birth defect that prevented his left hand from fully forming. His hand was amputated when he was 4.
The condition caused "extreme pain," Griffin said, but never held him back.
Not while rough-housing with his twin brother, Shaquille, as a child, not while starring at Lakewood and not while helping UCF to an undefeated season as a captain and senior linebacker.
Now, he is projected to be taken on the second or third day of the NFL draft.
"He has all the tools to be a star in the NFL," TODAY's Craig Melvin said in setting up the four-minute piece, "but it's what he doesn't have that's setting him apart."
What Griffin doesn't have, he said, is a handicap or a disability.
"I don't like any words like that," Griffin said. "You've got a disability or handicap, that means you're limited to certain things. I'm not limited to nothing. I can do anything anybody else can do."
At the NFL combine, he did something no one else had done. Using a prosthesis, he bench-pressed 225 pounds 20 times and then ran a blistering 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, the fastest time by a linebacker in 15 years.
"I know what I can do, and I know my expectations," Griffin said, "and my expectations are high."
Seemingly, the only thing Griffin can't do is control others' expectations for him.
"I knew no matter how good I did, no matter everything that I pushed for, there's always gonna be some type of doubt, and some people want to put limitation on what I can do," he said.
"And I knew that, because it happened in little league, it happened in high school, it happened in college. I knew each and every phase of my life, there's gonna be some type of doubt — 'this guy can't do this' — but I think I've been doing pretty well with showing people what I can do."
No one knows better than Griffin's twin brother, Shaquille, who was asked if he treated Shaquem any differently when they were growing up.
"I didn't see a brother with one hand," said Shaquille, a cornerback with the Seattle Seahawks. "I just saw Shaquem Griffin, my twin brother."
One he couldn't be more proud of.
"I've been there every step of the way," Shaquille said. "To see what he's been through and how he's overcome everything that he's been through, he's been a huge inspiration to me."