The Seattle Seahawks selected Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin in the fifth round on Saturday, reuniting the feel-good story of the NFL draft with his twin brother.
Griffin lost his left hand to amputation when he was younger, and became the player everyone was hoping would get a shot in the NFL. He was a star at Central Florida despite playing with just one hand. He was the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year in 2016 and the MVP of UCF's Peach Bowl victory against Auburn last season when UCF went 13-0.
"It's just so much. I'm extremely blessed," Shaquem said on a conference call. "It definitely was a tough three days. A lot of anxiety these few days, but I'm ready to get up there and go to work and start something great."
A groundswell of support got him an invite to the scouting combine in Indianapolis, where he stunned onlookers by bench-pressing 225 pounds a staggering 20 times with a prosthetic left hand and then covered the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds.
Griffin will be reunited with his brother Shaquill, who was a third-round pick of the Seahawks in 2017 and became a starter in his rookie season. The brothers played together throughout their youth and at Central Florida before Shaquill entered the NFL.
"I was going to be happy no matter what team that gave him the opportunity," Shaquill said. "At the end of the day that's all I wanted for him for a team to give him a shot and give him an opportunity and take a chance on someone that is great."
His position in the NFL is still to be determined. He was a force as an outside linebacker rushing off the edge at Central Florida, but at 6-foot and 227 pounds with blazing speed, he could transition to being the bigger safety Pete Carroll likes to have on his defense.
Griffin's college coach Scott Frost tweeted "About time," after the pick was made.
Griffin was in Arlington, Texas, waiting patiently in the green room through the first two days of the draft. He chose to spend the last day of the draft with his family at a nearby hotel watching and waiting. He sat through the entire fourth round without getting a call, but three picks into the fifth round the Seahawks called.
"It was up and down. The excitement, it's crazy because you're around so many great guys in that setting and you're in the green room and you're moving around and seeing how the anxiety is building up. Sometimes the pressure like that can break you and it is a lot of pressure," Shaquem said. "But I knew how it was going to go. I knew I wasn't going to be a first-round pick or anything like that. It was me making sure I was enjoying the moment that I was here in Dallas."
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