TAMPA — In a 52-paragraph essay published Wednesday, St. Petersburg native Shaquem Griffin announced he has ended the most inspirational chapter of his 27-year existence.
The book, however, is far from finished.
A former Lakewood High football and track standout who became the NFL’s first one-handed player, Griffin is retiring after three NFL seasons to pursue what he called his Plan A, which involves working for the NFL Legends Community. The program, among other roles, supports former players transitioning out of the game and helps retired players mentor current ones.
“Football was always Plan B,” Griffin wrote in a piece for the website The Players’ Tribune.
“My dad used to tell me and my (twin) brother (Shaquill) that. As kids we had dreamed of playing together in the NFL, but whenever we talked about it, our dad would remind us that if we made it to the league — especially if we got to play together — that would be an added blessing. A bonus.
“Plan A was to go to college, get an education and do something that would make a positive impact in the world.”
Griffin’s impact already has been immeasurable.
When his mom, Tangie Griffin, was pregnant, doctors told her that one of the twins she was carrying had amniotic band syndrome, a rare condition in which a strand of the amniotic sac comes free and entangles itself with part of the fetus.
A strand had wrapped around one of the wrists, effectively choking off further development. It was Shaquem’s.
As a toddler, the pain in Shaquem’s left hand became so unbearable, he’d beg his parents to cut off his hand. He had his left hand amputated when he was 4.
Undeterred, he learned rudimentary skills — including tying his shoes — and began playing youth-league football.
At Lakewood High, he evolved into a safety with collegiate offers and a multievent track star, winning the Class 2A triple-jump state title and teaming with his brother on the winning 1,600-meter relay team as a junior in 2012.
The following year, he finished second in the triple jump, to Shaquill. Meantime, his dad, Terry, created a book-size device made from a block of wood that allowed him to bench press.
When USF offered Shaquill a scholarship but not Shaquem, the brothers instead opted for UCF, which had room for both. He redshirted his first year while Shaquill played and was mired low on the depth chart his first three seasons. But a resurgence as a relentless edge rusher ensued when the Knights hired Scott Frost to replace George O’Leary following a winless 2015 season.
Stay updated on the Buccaneers
Subscribe to our free Bucs RedZone newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
In 2016, Shaquem was named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, totaling 11½ sacks and 20 tackles for loss for the Knights, who went 6-7 and reached a bowl game. In 2017, his first year of organized football without his brother as a teammate, he earned second-team All-America honors (74 tackles, 13 for loss, seven sacks) and was named Peach Bowl MVP, helping lead UCF to a 13-0 season.
At the 2018 NFL scouting combine, he performed 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds. He then was drafted in the fifth round by the Seahawks, the franchise that had drafted his brother the previous year.
In three seasons, he started only one game, collecting 25 tackles and a sack before being cut in 2020. The Dolphins cut him in the 2021 preseason, and he worked out for a handful of other teams before informing his agent that if he couldn’t play again with his brother, now with the Jaguars, he didn’t want to resume his career.
“I know a lot of people might not understand that approach,” Shaquem wrote in The Players’ Tribune. “There are so many guys out there working hard, just hoping for an opportunity, any opportunity, and here I am limiting them. Believe me, I get it. But you have to understand something about me.
“Football was always Plan B.”
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
• • •
Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.
Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.