It’s hard enough to make it to the NFL but add a disability, and it’s nearly impossible. That’s not the case for Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin, however. Born with a malformed left hand, he had it amputated when he was four years old. This didn’t stop him from pursuing his NFL dreams just like his twin brother, Shaquill Griffin.
The duo played college football together. Now, the brothers both suit up for the Seahawks. While having only one hand made Shaquem’s path a bit more challenging, his mission is to inspire others with disabilities to follow their dreams and not give up. And he does this in many ways.
Shaquem Griffin’s challenging start
Before Shaquem and his brother were born, their mother, Tangie, had to make a tough decision. Doctors informed her that a fibrous strand was wrapped around Shaquem’s wrist. That strand would stop his left hand from properly developing. They could try to remove it. But there was a possibility the strand could then wrap around one of the twins’ necks.
Tangie, a nurse herself, discussed this with her husband. She told SI, “I had a choice to say let’s try it and pray everything is O.K. But in my mind, that is not an option at all.” The couple chose to treat Shaquem like their other children and not view his disability as an obstacle.
However, as Shaquem grew, his left hand caused him serious pain — enough for Tangie to insist he get surgery immediately. Shaquem was only four but remembers feeling relieved instead of upset after the surgery was over.
Onto the NFL
Tangie was right about her son; he didn’t see his disability as an obstacle. In fact, he flourished. Shaquem received a scholarship, along with Shaquill, to the University of Central Florida. He had a career total of 17 sacks and 30 tackles.
Shaquem participated in the NFL combine in 2018 to rave reviews. He became the first one-handed athlete drafted into the league when the Seattle Seahawks chose him in the fifth round. It reunited him with his twin brother, who was chosen by the Seahawks in the draft a year earlier.
He told the Today show, “I would’ve never thought, that when I was younger, I would be at this point now. I’m kinda glad I made it here.” His hard work didn’t go unnoticed. In 2019, he received the NFL’s Game Changer award, which recognizes a player who’s positively impacted his community.
How Shaquem Griffin helps others
Today, Shaquem Griffin is still a workhorse for the Seahawks. Since being drafted onto the team, he’s made solid contributions every time he gets on the field. When he’s not on the active roster, Shaquem helps out during practices, but his main objective is to serve others just like him.
During the Today show interview, his meeting with a little boy who only has one hand was detailed. Shaquem wants others to know that even if they have limitations, it shouldn’t dictate your life and what your dreams are. The families who meet Shaquem are grateful there’s someone in the spotlight with a disability. It shows them that even though their child may have limitations, this doesn’t curb their greatness.
Playing in the NFL with only one hand is a huge inspiration for the children and parents of those with the same obstacles. And that’s exactly what Shaquem hopes for — that others can look at him, see how hard he’s worked and still achieved his dream, even without a left hand.