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Shaquem Griffin defying expectations and inspiring everyone in the process

The former UCF linebacker smashed the 40-yard dash, put up 20 reps on the bench press with a prosthetic hand and has us all in awe. Which team will be lucky enough to draft him?

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Auburn vs Central Florida Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has been made of Shaquem Grffin’s incredible performance at the 2018 NFL Combine.

The UCF linebacker came to Indianapolis ready to impress and he has exceeded any and all expectations; he is probably the biggest riser of any prospect in Indianapolis. And to think, he wasn’t initially invited to the event!

Griffin only has one hand, which you’d think would be a problem for anyone in the NFL, let alone a linebacker who needs to make tackles to succeed. But Griffin has proven that it’s not something he allows to hold him back.

In UCF’s undefeated 2017 season, Griffin put up 74 tackles (13.5 for loss), 7 sacks, 3 passes defended, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries (1 for a touchdown) and 2 forced fumbles. Talk about impressive! If you thought watching Odell Beckham Jr. catch a one-handed touchdown was crazy, you need to see this guy making plays.

Griffin isn’t a one-year wonder either. His 2016 season saw him put up 92 tackles (20 for loss), 11.5 sacks, 1 interception, 7 passes defended, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 forced fumbles. Coming into the Combine, many thought he’d be a Day 3 pick, but Griffin blew away all expectations. He ran a 4.38 second 40-yard dash, by far the best of all linebackers in Indianapolis. In fact, it was the best 40-yard dash time by any linebacker in Combine history.

The NFL community took notice. In the Combine media room, people literally were staring at the TV screens in awe, saying “holy shit” and Tweeting frantically about what they just watched. Here are some of the other notable reactions:

And it wasn’t just his Sunday performance that had people taking notice. On Saturday he put up 20 reps on the bench press, using a prosthetic hand in the process. It was inspiring, the kind of stuff you can’t make up. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said he got chocked up watching it. So did we.

“This is a legitimate football player,” Mayock said of Griffin. “Forget about the deformity or whatever you want to call what he has. He’s an energy giver... I got chill bumps watching him do 20 reps. Kim Jones talked to him and told him a GM said if he only did five reps he wouldn’t have cared. The kid kind of burred up and said, ‘Five reps? Don’t treat me any different. I did 20.’ I love that attitude. He’s going to be on an NFL team next year.”

That he is, and while Griffin says his goal was actually six reps, he far surpassed that total.

“My goal was six [reps],” Griffin told the media after completing the bench press. “I think I beat that by a lot. When I first started training, I was doing 11 reps, and usually, when you train with guys who bench a lot, they might add three or four reps. I added more than three or four to my actual max. Just being able to do that, it was amazing. Hearing the crowd and getting the juices flowing, I felt it. I didn’t know I Had it in me, but it came out today.”

Griffin was surprised by the crowd of media interested in speaking to him in Indianapolis and he was also surprised that he even had the chance to be bench pressing at the NFL Combine.

“Oh, I had no idea. No idea I would be able to be here and do something like that,” he said. “I didn’t trust anybody else but my brother behind me, and in reality, I felt like a bodybuilder when my brother was holding the book. He was probably taking weight off for me, but I felt like a bodybuilder, had my tank top on, and walking out flexing my back. I weighed about 169 then, but I felt like I was 300. Being here and having a new spotter-it wasn’t my brother this time-throwing those reps and he’s hyping me up, and everyone in the stands is hyping me up, I got the guys I’m here with hyping me up, it felt amazing. It felt good. I was hyped. I was ready to attack it. And that’s what I did.”

Griffin seems to be attacking anything and everything he sets his mind to. That’s what this process is all about for him as he looks to prove to NFL coaches, scouts and evaluators that he belongs in the league and that having one hand isn’t going to slow him down.

“You’ve got so many people… will he do it, can he do it,” Griffin said on Saturday before the 40-yard dash took place. “People say, can you run fast? Your brother’s fast, are you fast? I’m gonna show you tomorrow and see if I can check that box off, too. I’m going to check every box off of the things people say I can’t do. I’m glad I have the opportunity to be here, because I’m definitely going to show everybody.”

That he did as his 40-yard dash was the highlight of Sunday at the combine. Even defensive backs entering the bench press area were watching Griffin’s run on their phones, all completely inspired by what they saw.

“I always hold myself to a higher standard, because if we’re doing drills and I drop a ball, it’ll be, ‘He dropped the ball because he has one hand.’ Anyone else drops it, it’ll be like, ‘Well, maybe it was a bad ball,’” Griffin said. “There are always going to be more questions. Anything that I can do, I gotta hold myself to a higher standard, because it’s just that important to everybody.”

We are in awe of one-handed LB Shaquem Griffin!

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But as much as everyone is in awe of Griffin, whose brother is Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin, he isn’t surprised by what he’s been doing and proving at the Combine.

“I know what I can do, and the one thing I can do is to go out there and make sure I do it. A lot of people see somebody who has one hand instead of two, and they think it’s different or it doesn’t make sense,” Griffin said. “‘Oh, he has one hand-how can you play football?’ Well, what if I say, ‘You have two hands, can you play football?’ 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.”

Griffin hasn’t made it to the NFL just yet, but he’s already an inspiration to many and he’s seen that during the week in Indianapolis.

“I hope I inspire a lot. I always tell everybody, if I can inspire one, and they can inspire another and inspire a thousand later. If I Keep doing what I’m doing now, I can change the minds of a lot of other people later,” Griffin said. “I’ve been feeling that all week since I’ve been here. And that’s kind of cool when you have guys at that top level, the best of the best, and they come and talk to you about you motivating them and inspiring them, I feel really good hearing that from them. It motivates me to do more and keep pushing when you’ve got guys all over the place, the top in the country, and they’re proud of me. That was an amazing feeling, and it makes you enjoy it that much more.”

As much as Griffin in enjoying the Combine experience, we’re enjoying watching him go through it. The Combine likely elevated his draft stock quite a bit, so it’s definitely going to be exciting to see where he lands in the NFL. The Bengals could use a player like Griffin, but just about any team could use an inspiring person like Griffin.