INDIANAPOLIS — Shaquem Griffin has sent another message to the NFL.
And everyone else who ever doubted him.
“Don’t set limits for me.”
Beyond times in the 40-yard-dash and heights of vertical jumps, turns out the NFL combine also can measure the size of a man’s heart.
Griffin, the twin brother of Seahawks starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin and the American Athletic Conference’s player of the year as a linebacker for undefeated Central Florida, did something Saturday no one had ever seen at the NFL’s annual scouting combine.
Using a special prosthetic attached to his left arm to replace the hand he had amputated when he was a kid, Shaquem Griffin did 20 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench-press testing in front of a roaring audience of NFL scouts and fans inside the Indiana Convention Center.
To get an idea how extraordinary that is: Orlando Brown of Oklahoma entered this week considered a first-round draft choice as a 360-pound left tackle. He did just 14 reps on the bench press.
“I felt the energy from everybody,” Shaquem Griffin said of the crowd. “My adrenaline was going through the roof. … My goal was six (reps). I think I beat that by a lot.”
Griffin said he first used prosthetic technology during his freshman year at UCF.
“We went to go get it fitted for me. And when I started lifting, I could barely bench the bar,” he said. “I mean, I’m shaking all over the place and the bar is falling, and I can’t lift 45 pounds. But it just goes to show how much work I put in to get to this point.”
After he knocked out his 20, Shaquem was asked if he tied his brother’s total here last year.
“Oh, no,” he said. “I did more than him in the bench press. I think he did, like, three.”
He was joking. Shaquill did 17 reps in the bench at the 2017 combine.
Shaquill is one minute younger than Shaquem. Shaquill also knows about overcoming the odds to make the NFL. Initially, he didn’t receive an invitation to the 2017 combine, then got one and parlayed it into getting selected in the third round of the draft by Seattle.
Just like it did to Shaquill, the NFL originally did not invite Shaquem to this combine. Apparently, an all-league linebacker each of the past two seasons and MVP of the Peach Bowl when UCF beat blue-blood program Auburn of the mighty Southeastern Conference on Jan. 1 — all while playing with one hand — wasn’t worthy enough.
In late January, Shaquem impressed scouts and everyone with his eyes and heart at the Senior Bowl. He was the all-star game’s practice player of the week.
Then the NFL had a bout of common sense and invited Shaquem to the combine. He is attempting to be the first player with one hand drafted into the league in the modern era.
Last year marked the first time in their lives Shaquem and Shaquill were separated. Could they be reunited on the Seahawks’ defense this year?
Seahawks general manager John Schneider sounded as impressed — and wowed — with Shaquem as everyone else. “He’s a special dude … we’ll be sitting down with him this week,” Schneider said.
Shaquem was one of the 60 interviews the Seahawks were allowed at the combine, at 15 minutes each.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has said since last year he wants to get younger with quality depth behind star linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.
Shaquem’s been an inspiration for his twin brother — and vice versa — since Shaquem had his left hand amputated when they were 4 years old because of a congenital disorder known as amniotic band syndrome. It occurs in about one out of every 1,200 births. The twins played sports together while growing up in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
Shaquill made it clear to college recruiters that if they wanted him to sign a letter of intent, they would have to sign his twin brother, too.
Then-Central Florida coach George O’Leary was one who said he wanted them both. So the brothers went to UCF. Shaquem redshirted and had one more season there this fall. That turned into a storybook finale: the UCF Knights were the only undefeated team in major-college football this past season. They finished 13-0, beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Shaquem starred in that game, too.
Maybe Shaquem won’t be a linebacker in the NFL. He said some teams don’t think he can add enough weight to his his 227-pound frame. Perhaps he’ll be a safety or a hybrid player.
Whatever. That hardly matters right now.
Just don’t tell him what he’s doing is amazing.
“Nah, I’m not amazed, at all. I know what I can do,” he said. “And the one thing I can do is to go out there and make sure I do it. … 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 up to me to accomplish everything I want out of life.”