Shaquem Griffin joined the Seahawks surrounded by a lot of hype. Not only is the former UCF linebacker an inspiration having thrived in college football despite playing with one hand, he also was coming to Seattle to be teammates with his twin brother Shaquill, a story that was as uplifting as it was unlikely.
But now that Shaquem Griffin is settling into his first NFL training camp, the hype has everything to do with his play and not his inspirational story. Griffin’s camp already includes a forced fumble and an interception of Russell Wilson that went viral, and on Friday he even earned a few reps with the starting defense at weakside linebacker. But for all the fanfare surrounding Griffin, and for as well as he has played so far in camp, he doesn’t feel like he has proven anything yet.
“I’ve got a lot to prove,” Griffin said. “I’ve got to prove myself every single day, I’m not going to get comfortable where I’m at. I’m blessed and happy to be here, but the work is not done. Far from done. I’m just here to learn more and be the best player and be the best teammate I can be.”
Perhaps as impressive as Griffin’s play has been the way he has handled being in the spotlight for so long. Griffin’s story is an amazing one, but neither he nor the Seahawks wanted that to be the focus once it became time for football, and so far Seahawks coach Pete Carroll likes what he has seen from his rookie linebacker both on the field and off.
“I really wasn’t worried about it but was aware of it, and right from the start (we were) just trying to keep him level-headed and make sure he’s in connection with what he needs to focus on,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot going on. Fantastic story, but right now he needs to play football and be all over it. We’ve addressed that right from the start. He’s very poised. He’s a really bright football player and I think his relationship with his brother—they have a real savvy that they share, they have a way about them that gives them a chance to be really good and really competitive.”
The Seahawks have used Griffin at weakside linebacker so far and they also envision a big role for him on special teams as well, but given his success as a pass-rusher in college, it’s only natural to wonder if he’ll find a role doing that as well. For his part, Griffin says he’ll do anything asked of him, be it special teams or linebacker or pass-rushing or just about any other role that exists on a football field.
“I can help out wherever they need help at,” he said. “I’m not a guy who’s just worrying about what he feels he need to be at. I’m just here to be the best teammate. If the coach wants me to kick, I’ll kick. If he wants me to do anything else, I’ll do whatever they put me at.”
Griffin’s growth has been helped along not only by a twin brother with a year of experience under his belt, but also by veteran linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, a pair of Pro-Bowl team leaders who are doing everything they can to help Griffin and other young linebackers.
“They are so helpful,” Griffin said. “They make sacrifices that a lot vets that you see on other teams wouldn’t do. They come to the rookie meetings, they sit by us, they ask us questions, they tell us to go to the board. They make sure they ask us when we’re on the field, why are we thinking this way, why are we making this decision. So, they kind of stay on top of everything. They are making sure that they are pushing us as well as anybody else. When you’ve got guys like that who are willing to make sacrifices that take their time away to help us, the only thing we can do is get better every day.”
If anything is keeping this from being a perfect start to training camp for Griffin, it might be that his brother is having a bit of a hard time with Shaquem’s new dog, a blue French bulldog named Tank.
“(Shaquill)’s not too happy that I moved in with him,” Shaquem Griffin said with a grin. “… I just got me a little puppy, so now we are taking up more room. We are kind of taking over right now. He don’t like it that much.”
Fan photos from Day 6 of 2018 Seahawks training camp at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.