Former Lakewood and UCF star Shaquem Griffin's inspirational career entered a new stratosphere Saturday.
A day after signing an endorsement deal with Nike, Griffin was drafted in the fifth round by the Seahawks, reuniting him with twin brother Shaquill and continuing his quest to become the NFL's first one-handed player.
"I'm emotional right now, but man, everything he has been through and everything he's accomplished, it's just the beginning," Shaquill Griffin told ESPN. "I don't think I cried on my draft day, and I couldn't hold it."
Shaquill Griffin, a cornerback who also played at UCF and Lakewood, was drafted in the third round by Seattle last season, the first year he and Shaquem didn't play on the same team. Unlike his brother, Shaquem took a redshirt season at UCF.
"This is like a dream," Shaquem, in Dallas for the draft with his brother and parents, said on a conference call with Seahawks reporters.
"To see the Seattle Seahawks, oh my goodness, it's un-explainable, the emotions and everything that were going through my mind, it was crazy.
"I had a feeling (about the Seahawks) but the chances are really low."
Shaquem Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome, which affected his left hand and caused the hand and fingers to not develop fully. The pain became so intense, he tried to cut off the fingers with a butcher knife at age 4; his parents scheduled an amputation the next day.
A three-sport athlete at Lakewood, he established himself as a bona fide NFL prospect his final two seasons at UCF. An inconspicuous backup safety his first three seasons at UCF, Shaquem was converted to outside linebacker when Coach Scott Frost arrived in Orlando.
His career has kept skyrocketing since.
He was named American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 (92 tackles, 11.5 sacks) and tallied 62 tackles and 5.5 sacks during the Knights' undefeated season last fall.
He was named Defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl, registering 12 tackles including 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in a 34-27 triumph against Auburn. A late invitee to the NFL combine, he essentially stole the event, performing 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and running the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds.
Nonetheless, he was drafted later than most projected, and was picked after three UCF teammates.
"The hardest part for him is going to be…it's not the hand, it's the size," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. "It's hard to find 227-pounders whose best strength is rushing the quarterback."
Just you wait, Shaquem suggested in his conference call.
"(The Seahawks) are really getting a diamond in the rough, I'm not gonna lie to you," he said.
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