Imagine being a conference defensive player of the year, All-Conference All-American, Peach Bowl defensive MVP, helping your team to an undefeated season, yet not being an original invite to the NFL combine.
Imagine entering the weekend’s combine (to which I find to be slightly degrading), headlined with players named Saquon Barkley, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and Bradley Chubb amongst others, but single handedly (literally) stealing the show.
As I stated, I personally don’t get into the combine too much, but after yesterday’s performance from University of Central Florida’s linebacker Shaquem Griffin, I may have to reconsider. Moments after, and hours into today, Griffin’s performance on the 40 yard dash and bench press literally broke the internet. As a spectator, I honestly don’t know which was more impressive, this guy’s 40-time which clocked in at 4.38, the fastest 40-time we’ve seen from a linebacker since 2003, or his 20 reps on the bench press with a prosthetic hand.
I mean c’mon, the guy wasn’t even originally invited and went in with low expectations on the bench, stating “my goal was 6.” To come in and knockout 14 more, you can’t tell this guy anything, he killed it yesterday on all angles.
Now, before I get any deeper, I have to make this clear. No matter what news outlet, radio station or publication you get Griffin’s weekend story from, KNOW that his football story is not to be misinterpreted for a feel good story.
If you want a touching story on this young man’s life, having his hand amputated at age four and where he is now as a player, I suggest finding the ESPN College GameDay special titled “The pain Shaquem Griffin can never forget,” as what took place yesterday is at the pinnacle of not just football stories, but sports stories for the month.
His performance on the field and showing at the combine will make you like him, his character and approach to becoming a professional athlete will only make you respect him.
“I want to be able to show NFL teams, that whatever you need help at, I can play it. Want me to play kicker or punter, all I need to do is get a good stretch in, and warm up my foot.” The guy just wants to play and serve his team the best way possible, and that can go a long way coming into the professional setting as a rookie.
From the various highlights and handful of games I’ve seen Griffin play in, it is no question this young man is more than an incredible athlete with an incredible story, but an incredible inspiration to those who face being told consistently they cannot do something.
While the combine to me is just a snippet of what a player is fully capable of, if I were a GM looking for my teams next franchise linebacker, bet your bottom dollar I’d confidently draft Shaquem Griffin, not because of his story, but because of his football background and past success.