The Seattle Seahawks made a historic selection with the 141st pick in the 2018 NFL draft. The selection process is extremely detailed with teams strategically determining which players drafted could best benefit their program. What the Seahawks did in the fifth round was to select Shaquem Griffin, a linebacker from the University of Central Florida. Griffin, an American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year, was born with amniotic band syndrome which means he was born without a left hand. But with all of his accolades, such as the Peach Bowl MVP and Second Team All American, Shaquem was not a shoo-in for the NFL Combine invitation.
At this event each collegiate athlete is able to showcase their abilities in front of NFL scouts and coaches. Upon his acceptance to the combine, Shaquem prepared to excel at the event. He not only accomplished his goal, he knocked it out of the park. He bench pressed 225 lbs. twenty times and ran the fastest 40 yard dash at 4.38 seconds; faster than any player at the linebacker position since the combine’s inception. Also, there is a side bar to the Shaquem Griffin story. His twin brother, Shaquille, is a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks. So, with Shaquem’s selection, there is a possibility that there could be a twin brother tandem on the defensive side of the ball.
There have been several athletes with limited abilities that have excelled at the pinnacle of their respective sports. Jim Abbott in baseball, similarly to Shaquem, was born without a right hand and played ten years in the majors. Tom Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot, nonetheless, he was a successful placekicker in the NFL for ten years. Dempsey became an All-Pro player in 1969 and made the Pro Bowl that same year. But what makes Shaquem a little different, is that he excels at one of the more ferocious positions in football as a linebacker.
As a former Special Education teacher, I am encouraged with Shaquem’s selection. The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) was introduced in 1989 and was written into law the following year. In a nutshell, the act mandates that any child with a disability will have the same rights of participation as any child without a disability. So, the drafting of Shaquem Griffin extends the IDEA to another level. The Seahawks message was one of normalcy in the work place, regardless if there is a disability or not. Griffin will be measured on his ability to perform and contribute to the Seahawks organization. His acceptance is without contingency and he will be viewed quite simply as a football player. Whether he realizes his dream or not, he will inherently be viewed as a role model for every disabled child—he is what they can be.
Personally, while I don’t cheer for the Seattle Seahawks, I will throw my hat in for Shaquem Griffin. He is an outstanding young man who has persevered through everything life has thrown at him. I believe his future will be bright and he will continue to be an inspiration to us all.