Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin wasn't drafted in the first round. He didn't even initially receive an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine.
But Griffin has become one of the most famous rookies this NFL season, in part because he is an amputee with one hand and is again teammates with his twin brother Shaquill. But he proved to be one of the best players on a 2017 UCF team that finished undefeated and beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
He's also been an inspiration to fans and young athletes for overcoming the obstacle of playing with one hand. Gillette featured Shaquem in an inspirational commercial. Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome, which meant his left hand never fully developed. When he was 4 years old, he was in such pain that his mother found him with a knife, thinking about amputating the hand himself. He was scheduled and had the hand amputated the next day.
Here are some stats and highlights from his college career that made Griffin stand out before he found NFL fame:
Shaquem Griffin was Defensive MVP at the 2018 Peach Bowl
As the Group of 5's representative in the New Year's Six games, UCF played Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Going into the game, UCF was 12-0 and Auburn was 10-3. Auburn was ranked No. 2 in the second-to-last College Football Playoff rankings, but a 28-7 loss to Georgia dropped them down to No. 7.
Playing on New Year's Day in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Griffin and UCF finished off an unbeaten season with a 34-27 win. Griffin led all players with 12 total tackles while having 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. UCF held Auburn to only 90 rushing yards on 44 attempts and also intercepted Jarrett Stidham twice.
Shaquem Griffin was named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016
Griffin wasn't a one-year wonder, even if his stock and name recognition increased during the Knights' 2017 season. Before UCF went undefeated in 2017, he was the AAC's top defensive player in 2016.
In 13 games, Griffin made 92 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss and had 11.5 sacks. That helped the Knights improve from 0-12 in 2015 to 6-7 the next season.
Shaquem Griffin didn't play significant time until this third year at UCF
While twin brother Shaquill Griffin played in 10 total games in 2013 and 2014, Shaquem totaled only three games (he redshirted in 2014 after playing only two games). He then played in 11 games in 2015, making 25 total tackles.
However, Griffin didn't break out until Scott Frost took over as the Knights' coach for the 2016 season. His 20 tackles for loss that season tied for the third-most in UCF history.
Shaquem Griffin had at least two sacks in a game four times
During his UCF career, Griffin had multiple-sack games four times, including three times during the 2016 season.
- 2016 vs. Florida International: 5 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks
- 2016 vs. Houston: 14 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks
- 2016 vs. Cincinnati: 7 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks
- 2017 vs. Memphis: 6 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks
Shaquem Griffin has always been teammates with his twin brother
Shaquem Griffin is two minutes younger than his brother, Shaquill. They've also rarely been separated.
They were high school teammates at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Florida. Shaquill received an offer from Miami, but he decided to go to UCF so he could play with his brother. Though Shaquill was at UCF for one fewer season than Shaquem, they're now teammates again in the NFL.
Shaqill was drafted in the third round in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Seahawks; Seattle picked Shaquem in the fifth round in 2018.