Last month I saw a video on Shaquem Griffin, who is the first one-handed player picked in the modern draft of the NFL. Griffin was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 5th round as part of the 2018 draft and will play along his twin brother Shaquill Griffin. His is a story of inspiration, determination, setbacks and brotherly love.
Shaquem Griffin had his left hand amputated when he was four because of a prenatal condition called amniotic band syndrome, which caused his hand to be underdeveloped. When he was seven, he was told for the first time by a little league coach that being one-handed precluded him from playing the sport he loved – football. He was determined to prove the naysayers wrong. Griffin was able to continue playing sports without his left hand, competing in track, baseball, and football alongside his brother.
Both brothers played college football at Central Florida, Shaquill rejecting offers from other teams including the Miami Hurricanes, his dream team, so he could play with Shaquem. After some initial setbacks, Shaquem flourished under a new head coach where he was named the 2016 American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year and also served as a captain for last season's 13-0 team.
Despite his successful college career at UCF, Shaquem had to campaign for an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine. He stole the show in the NFL’s week-long talent showcase with impressive results including 20 bench reps at 225 lbs using a prosthetic arm and a lightning fast 40-yard dash time of 4.38 seconds – fastest linebacker since 2003. His performance there led Griffin to become internationally known and there was talk of him being drafted in the second or third round. Shaquem tweeted a video of him being drafted by the Seahawks, and titled it #AgainstAllOdds
“That was the phone call I've been waiting for my entire life. I couldn't breathe, At the end of the day, you have to show what you can do. You can't set limits on what you can do, whether you have two hands or 30 hands. Show me what you can do, and we'll go from there. Don't set limits for me, because when I wake up in the morning and I brush my teeth and I look at myself in the mirror, it's only me that I see in the mirror. I'm not going to see anybody else in the mirror. That's how I live, day by day. When I look in the mirror, it's up to me to accomplish everything I want out of life."
This story has lessons for all of us – the power of brotherhood, the importance of persistence, and the ability to overcome the obstacles in our path. On any given day for our team, there are challenges – for our teachers, it might be a student with a learning disability who needs more attention; for our teacher supervisors, it might be a teacher who is struggling with his lesson plans; for our operations managers, it might be trying to get school supplies from point A to point B in really challenging conditions. But with the right supports, every person can be a success story. At Impact, we work to provide access to a quality education to all children, no matter what their circumstance is. We work incredibly hard to make sure our students succeed #AgainstAllOdds. Because even when there are setbacks, with hard work, determination and a little love – anything is possible.