You could live under a rock and even then, you’d still have heard about Shaquem Griffin and his story to greatness. It is quite literally worldwide news with media outlets all over the globe wanting to interview him… China, Italy, the UK, everyone wants a piece of the 5th round Seahawks draft selection, and rightly so.
The story has got people who don’t follow the NFL talking about it, but let me start by saying – this is not a feel good story, NFL teams don’t do that. If teams didn’t think he could play at this level he wouldn’t it’s a ruthless business and a plain fact. But he can play, and he can play damn well, too, let me elaborate…
Shaquem was born less than two minutes after his twin brother, second year cornerback Shaquill Griffin, on July 20th 1995, making him 22 years old. He was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome that affected his left hand, part of ABS is your hand doesn’t fully develop and can be extremely painful, at just aged 4, Shaquem underwent surgery to amputate his hand. Did the amputation hold him back? What do you think?! He played football, baseball and ran track in his early life and throughout.
Fast forward to his college career, he and his brother both went to the University of Central Florida, but Griffin struggled to make a name for himself. He spent most of his time as a 3rd stringer and on the scout team (think NFL practice squad) until UCF bought in a new head coach by the name of Scott Frost for the 2016 season, Scott saw the potential in Shaquem and gave him a shot. As you can imagine, Shaquem took full advantage of his opportunity, earning ‘American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year’. His 2017 season at UCF was equally as impressive, too, winning the “Peach Bowl Defensive MVP”. He finished his college career with 17 sacks and 30 TFL (tackle for loss). Those numbers are not to be sniffed at.
That’s enough of his back-story and what he has done, lets take a look at the exciting part… What he will do (for the Seahawks).
I see Griffin in two main roles on the defensive side of the ball. I see him rushing the passer on 3rd down and I see him spying the QB. His lighting speed and ability to weave through traffic truly is something that needs to be seen to be believed, one second you see the QB dropping back into the pocket, you blink and Griffin has found himself into the backfield, often untouched. His speed will be matched at the NFL level, sure, but he will want to win the matchup more than you, that’s the best choice of words I can come up with to describe Shaquem –
“He just wants it more than the other guy”
He will be an absolute godsend when playing against mobile QB’s, his ability to view the field, assess what is going to happen and make a play is almost unrivaled in this league. His football IQ is quite frankly, off the charts. I'd dare offensive coordinators to dial up a screen pass when him on the field, dare them! He will suss it out, he will make the play, and you'll find yourself in a negative yardage situation. You best believe he’s taken a sneak peak at the Seahawks defensive playbook from his brother, too. This kid is going to know the whole defensive play calling from the get go. He will quite literally force his way onto the team, he won’t give the coaching staff a reason to say ‘no’ or ‘not yet’, he just won’t. Not that the coaching staff will be against him, far from it, but it’s their responsibility to put the best 11 men out on the field relative to the situation, and in many situations, having him on the field will be the right call. Sure there’s situations where he won’t see the field but show me a player in the NFL that is suitable for every down and distance as well as every bit of field position? It’s rare, seriously rare.
You also cannot ignore his special teams value. With his legit speed and ability to avoid traffic expect him to be the immediate best player on the field during kickoffs and punts, I’d also gladly bet money that he uses his pass rush to block one or two kicks in his rookie year, just watch. He just has a real ability for working his way through the field in a fluid motion and making plays, he’s been doing it his whole life, don’t expect that to stop in the NFL.
Some have suggested he could be the ideal size for play strong safety but I disagree. Playing him there would take him away from where he excels and putting him where he doesn’t, getting into coverage. His cover skills aren’t bad by any means, but he excels at playing close to the ball, chasing down QB’s and making plays on the ball. The closer his is to the ball, the better he plays, he’s just one of those types of players. Thrives on making a play. Expect him to cause an alarming amount of forced fumbles and turnovers in general, an area Seattle would love to get back to. The turnover battle is something Pete Carroll has preached since joining the team, win the turnover battle, win the explosive play battle and win the field position battle and it’s game, set & match.
We’ve talked about what he will bring to the table from a physical standpoint, now let’s look at how we will improve the team as a whole and the players around him.
NFL players tend to be pretty competitive chaps, when they look over their shoulder in practice and see Shaquem is working harder than them (and he will be) it’ll fire them up. They won’t accept that he just ‘works harder than everyone else’. They’ll want to beat him, every single player on the roster is going to benefit from his presence, he will elevate all of them to work harder. That is a recipe for a competitive football team; keep the competition in house and feed off of each other.
I’m sure you remember the kind of energy that was felt during the ‘beastquake’ play against the Saints, that is going to feel like a Sunday morning stroll round the park in comparison to when Shaquem makes his first big play at Century Link Field. Seriously, I’m having shivers down my spine and my arm hair is standing on edge just typing this, absolutely electric and will no doubt go down in the Seahawks history books.
The energy and chemistry he is going to bring to this locker room is going to be a real shock to the players, a weird feeling no doubt. They’ve been pumped up and ready to play many a time, but they’re about to be that little more ‘fired up’ and that little more ‘pissed off’ and that little more energized. I know I keep saying it but he really is going to elevate everyone. Every single person in that locker room is going to feed off of the energy he brings, if I’m feeding off it sitting here typing this, imagine what it must feel like to have him in the middle of a huddle moments before a game? It’s almost incomprehensible.
I guess I will finish by saying this:
Don’t love Shaquem because he’s a football player with one hand, love shaquem because of his desire, ability, passion and determination to succeed. That’s why he will become a fantastic NFL player, not because he has one hand.
“He simply wants it more than the other guy”
If you want to check out his ability for yourself, check out these highlight videos, I challenge you not to get goosebumps!
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