The best moment of the 2018 NFL Draft took place in the bathroom of a Dallas hotel room.
Shaquem Griffin was still waiting to hear his name called as the fifth round began when he almost missed a phone call from the Seattle Seahawks. The UCF linebacker, whose twin brother Shaquill was picked by Seattle in the third round a year earlier, hoped he was going to be drafted soon, but he also needed a bathroom break.
But when Shaquill Griffin saw a 425 area code flash on his brother's phone, he decided he needed to intervene even as his brother sought some, um, relief.
"I was using the restroom, and my brother came and tackled me with my cellphone, saying 'Answer it, answer it!'" Shaquem Griffin said while waiting for a ride back to AT&T Stadium where he would do several media interviews during the final day of the draft. "I looked, and that's when tears just started pouring down right then and there. I literally went into the restroom and my brother busted in and tackled me. I think I was more scared of him tackling me in the bathroom for not knowing what's happening, than anything. That's how it happened."
Shaquill Griffin, who was in Dallas with his brother, did not deny this intrusion.
"It was crazy," the Seahawks corner said. "He wasn't really looking at the phone anymore, I wasn't looking for it. He got up to go to the bathroom, and then it was a couple picks away, and then the phone rang, and I saw the 425 Area code. I know the 425, the 206, I know the area codes for Seattle. When I saw that, I grabbed the phone and jumped over everybody else on the floor, and went to the bathroom--I'm glad he didn't lock the door--I went into the bathroom and grabbed him, 'What are you doing, you have to grab this.' I said, 'You don't have time for this.' I handed him the phone, and that's how it went.
Asked to confirm that he actually tackled his brother, Shaquill said, "Yes, I needed him to be focused."
The two eventually left the bathroom to celebrate with the rest of their family, an emotional moment as everyone celebrated the fact that the twins will be reunited in the NFL. Before last season, when Shaquill was starting at right cornerback for the Seahawks while Shaquem was earning AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors, the two had never lived apart, and they had never not been teammates. Shaquem Griffin to the Seahawks was a dream scenario for just about everyone, from the twins themselves to Seahawks fans to anyone who just likes a feel-good story, to, as it turned out, the Seahawks front office, but given the unpredictability of the draft, it was far from being the likely outcome.
"It was really like a dream," Shaquem said. "It was like I was dreaming. Magical stuff started happening. It's unexplainable, the emotions, everything that was going through my mind. It was crazy. I had a feeling, but the chances are really low, so just to be able to be there. I couldn't ask for anything in the world to have an opportunity to be back with my brother."
Shaquill Griffin might have been even more excited than his brother that the Seahawks decided to make Shaquem the 141st overall pick and fourth player taken in the fifth round.
"A lot of emotion running through my body right now," Shaquill said. "It's crazy. I am kind of at a loss for words, I really am...People ask, 'Do you think Shaquem is gonna come play with you?' I feel like there was maybe a 1 percent chance that you get twin brothers on the same team. So, I thought 1 percent chance, and I guess we'll see how it works. It's really like that. I wasn't sure how it was going to go. I was just going to be happy no matter what team gave him the opportunity. At the end of the day, that's all I want for him, for a team to give him a shot and an opportunity, and take a chance on something that's great, both for him and the organization. I'm glad the Seattle Seahawks did that."
Of course Shaquem Griffin's story is more than just that of a player joining his twin brother in the NFL -- and that on its own would be a pretty great story. Shaquem Griffin was drafted Saturday despite having had his left hand amputated when he was 4 years old, the result of amniotic band syndrome, a congenital disorder that kept his hand from developing properly. Despite coaches questioning his ability from youth football to college, Griffin kept proving himself, right up to and through the NFL scouting combine where he ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash -- the same time Shaquill ran a year earlier -- and benched 225 pounds 20 times with a prosthetic on his left arm. Shaquem Griffin also wowed the Seahawks off the field.
"I don't know if I've ever been in a more inspirational interview that we do at the combine than that one," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He was just so expressive and so open to tell his story, and to tell what this opportunity meant to him in such a way that he moved us all. Just like those of you who've watched him, he's an extraordinary young man. He has a lot of messaging that he's going to stand strong with and we're all going to grow from, I think.
"Aside from that, he's a really good football player. He's an explosive, talented guy, and he backs it up. I think probably the coolest thing that happened at the combine is that he said to us in our meeting, 'I'm going to run faster than my brother' and when our clocks came off, our handhelds, he beat his brother's time. And we went nuts about it, because he called it. Nobody thought he would be able to do that, and he called it."
But even though Shaquem Griffin's story is, as general manager John Schneider put it, "incredibly inspiring," the Seahawks picked him because he's a hell of a football player, not because he's got a cool backstory.
"One of the most interesting things about this guy as a football player is that he makes his plays at critical moments in the game," Schneider said. "You can see it when you're watching film, and then when the analytics guys throw their numbers at you, and you go 'wow.' Really impressive. He doesn't miss any more tackles than the average linebacker in this draft. The rest of his stuff is just off the charts. All of the boxes are checked."
Carroll said they'll start off looking at Griffin as a weakside linebacker, while also expecting him to have a big role on special teams, but he also showed the ability to rush the passer in college, something he could also do in Seattle. And like Schneider, Carroll said this pick was about acquiring a talented football player more than anything else.
"He's coming in to play football," Carroll said. "It's obvious that there will be some following because it's a real life drama. As we always have, we're going to contribute in ways to support these guys through the process. I think it's worthwhile because of the lessons and the teachings that those guys will be able to share and demonstrate. It's a worthwhile story that I'm not going to mind keeping it alive. We're not going to dwell on it, we're not going to spend a bunch of time trying to get something out of it. It's a fantastic story because it's a real life situation. We'll just support it with care and with good consideration and all that. But we've got football (to play) and that’s why he's coming here. He knows that. He's as tuned in of a football player as you can get. But we'll try to not let it get the best of us in any way."
Whether it was ever his intention or not, Shaquem Griffin has become an inspiration to so many people, but as has been his goal all along, he'll come to Seattle focused on being the best football player he can be.
"I'm not going to change anything about the way I play. I am still going to tackle, I'm still going to catch the ball. I'm still going to make plays, I'm still going to make a difference," he said. "Everybody thinks it is a sentimental story, but Shaquem Griffin doesn't think like that. I'm a guy who is going to come in and work my butt off. I'm going to learn as fast as possible, and I'm going to contribute the best way possible. If you want me to rush, I will rush and I will give everything I got. If you want me to cover, I will cover and I will give everything I got. Nothing will change about me. I am a football player at the end of the day, and people who feel sorry or have any pity on me, they're the ones that are going to have to get over that."
Check out photos of UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who the Seahawks selected with the No. 141 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.