There are some things in life that are difficult to explain. Launching a rocket into space and landing on the moon, driverless cars, a democracy and Shaquem Griffin. Last Saturday, April 28, 2018, Griffin was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, joining his twin brother Shaquill. To many people, the story of Shaquem Griffin’s perseverance and positive attitude make it all seem like a feel good story, giving credit to the Seahawks for their choice. The reason for all this attention is that Shaquem has only one hand. The other was amputated when he was four because of severe pain he endured from amniotic band syndrome which caused his left hand to not fully develop.
The thing that is perhaps missing in this gigantic “feel good” story is the fact that Shaquem, even with one hand, is pretty damn good. He’s made some game changing plays from interceptions to fumble recoveries. In 2018, he was named the Peach Bowl Defensive MVP and the AAC Defensive Player of the year in 2016. In March, as Shaquem was hoping to get drafted, he wrote a letter to the NFL GMs. It is worthy of republishing here.
As you read it, think about the fact that his new Seahawks’ jersey is one of the top five best selling since Saturday and there’s more to come. According to 12thmanrising.com Shaquem Griffin t-shirts are already being presold, awaiting the Seahawks’ confirmation of his number. Imagine the custom apparel waiting to be sold that depicts both brothers on one shirt! REPRESENT!
So my coach took me back over to the guy who weighed me in so we could do it again, and — now, this is a long time ago, so I don’t remember exactly what was said, but basically, the opposing coach said that it wasn’t about my weight.It was about my hand.
He said I shouldn’t have been allowed to play football at all.
Because football is for two-handed players.
Mind you, I didn’t even know this guy. So I didn’t know why he had a problem with me playing. I had been playing for a few years and I was pretty good, so maybe he just wanted to keep one of our team’s better players off the field so his team had a better chance to win. I honestly don’t know.
But this was the first time I ever had to deal with somebody telling me I shouldn’t — or couldn’t — do something because of my hand. Like I was defective or something. Like I didn’t belong.
And that was the moment I realized I was always going to have to prove people wrong.
I’m not going to get into an explanation of the condition I was born with that prevented the fingers of my left hand from fully developing. Or talk about the time when I was four years old and I tried to cut my own fingers off with a kitchen knife because I was in constant pain. Or about when I got my left hand amputated shortly after. That’s stuff you probably already know about anyway — and if you don’t, you can Google it. The story is out there.
And it’s not some sob story or anything like that. It’s not even a sad story — at least not to me.
It’s just … my story.
I’m blessed to have thick skin. But I’m even more blessed to have a family that never let me make excuses and who raised me to never listen to anybody who told me I couldn’t do something — especially because of my hand.
My dad used to build all kinds of contraptions to help me lift weights. We had this one thing — we called it “the book,” and it was basically a piece of wood wrapped up in some cloth that I would hold up against the bar with my left arm when I bench pressed so my arms would be even. We had another block that I used for stuff like dips and push-ups, and I had chains and other straps to hold dumbbells for things like curls and shrugs.
And my dad used to work me, Shaquill and our older brother, Andre, hard.
In our backyard, we had a couple of stacks of cinder blocks with a stick across the top, like a hurdle. And when we would run routes, we would have to jump over the hurdle and do other obstacles mid-route. Then my dad would throw us the ball, and he’d throw it hard, right at our chest. And every time we dropped it, he would say, “Nothing comes easy.”
That was kind of his motto — not just for me, but for all of us.
Nothing comes easy.
Man … I hated those workouts. There were definitely times when I wanted to quit. Sometimes, when my dad threw the ball so hard that it bounced off my chest or it hit me in the face, I would be like, “I don’t wanna do this anymore.”
But he never let me quit.
“You’ll thank me one day,” he’d say.
At the time, I didn’t believe him. Now, I understand, and I thank him every chance I get, because all that work in the backyard helped me to develop the mentality that I can handle anything — that whatever you come at me with, I can come back at you even harder.
That’s what I did that day when that youth coach told me I shouldn’t be playing football.