Photo above via LOGAN BOWLES/Associated Press
As defensive linemen addressed the media at the NFL scouting combine Saturday, a roar went up on the other side of a wall in the Indiana Convention Center.
Watching NFL prospects bench press 225 pounds might not always be the most exciting activity, but watching Shaquem Griffin put up 20 reps with a prosthetic on his left arm was more than enough to electrify the crowd.
The twin brother of Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin, Shaquem Griffin was a late invite to the combine despite a standout career at the University of Central Florida, but by the end of his weekend in Indianapolis, he had stolen the show at the NFL's showcase for football's top draft-eligible talent.
Griffin, who had his left hand amputated when he was 4 years old, has spent most of his life trying to prove his doubters wrong, and at the combine he took another big step towards showing he belongs on the field with the game's best talent. After his impressive showing in the bench press, Griffin was even more impressive in one of the combine's marquee events, running the 40-yard dash in 4.38 second—amazingly the exact same time that his brother ran a year earlier. That's the fastest 40 time at the combine by a linebacker dating back to at least 2003.
"So many people are going to have doubts about what I can do," Griffin said Saturday after his impressive showing in the bench press. "Some people think I can do three (reps), some people think I can do five, some people didn't think I could do the bench press. But I went and did it and competed with everybody else and did 20, and that's just one step closer to everything I need to accomplish. There's going to be a lot more doubters saying what I can't do, and I'm ready to prove them wrong."
And it isn't just Griffin's physical ability that was making an impression at the combine. Seahawks general manager John Schneider had not yet met with Griffin when he talked to the media Friday, but he had been hearing some pretty impressive reports.
"I can't tell you who, but I had somebody tell me they had met John Wooden before, and that the feeling they got sitting down with John Wooden for five minutes was the same feeling they got from (Griffin), Schneider said. "I haven't been able to do that personally yet, so I am pretty excited about that. He's a special dude… We'll be sitting down with him this week."
For Griffin, having to prove himself as capable on the field despite missing one hand is nothing new, but he has still excelled at every level, and plans to continue that trend into the NFL.
"That started for me at a young age," he said. "I didn't have to wait until I was in high school or college to have tough skin about people having questions about me, because that started when I first started playing football. I was able to learn from there, and as I got older, I got better at handling different situations and things that were said about me. I've proved them wrong, and that's not going to stop. I know that on each and every level, I have to prove everybody wrong. I have no problem doing that, and I'll remain doing the same thing I've been doing.
"I know what I can do, and the one thing I can do is to go out there and make sure I do it. The reason I'm so excited to be able to prove so many people wrong is, a lot of people see somebody who has one hand instead of two, and they think it's different or it doesn't make sense. 'Oh, he has one hand—how can you play football?' Well, what if I say, 'You have two hands, how can you play football?' At the end of the day, you have to show what you can do. You can't set limits on what you can do, whether you have two hands or 30 hands. Show me what you can do, and we'll go from there. 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 only me that I see in the mirror. I'm not going to see anybody else in the mirror. That's how I live, day by day. When I look in the mirror, it's up to me to accomplish everything I want out of life."
College players from schools in Washington state take part in the 2018 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.