One-handed linebacker Griffin turning heads at NFL combine

Shaquem Griffin is unlike any other linebacker in the NFL. For one, the 2018 draft prospect runs the 40-yard dash faster than almost anyone at his position, recording the fastest time by a linebacker in over a decade with 4.38 seconds. He also has the disadvantage of missing his left hand, which hasn’t seemed to hinder him at all as he makes his case to be drafted.

Griffin’s hand was amputated when he was a small child due to a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome, but he still played football alongside his twin brother Shaquill, who is now a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks. Griffin was a standout performer in college, helping the UCF Knights record an undefeated season in 2017 and winning MVP in their bowl victory over Auburn. Any perceived limitations of playing with one hand were destroyed every time Griffin stepped onto the field with UCF, but he’s still battling misconceptions during the combine.

Griffin’s second 40-yard dash was a less-impressive 4.58 seconds. He looked good on the bench press, reaching 20 repetitions at 225 pounds using a prosthetic to connect his left arm with the bar, and even showed his ability to catch passes during interception drills by wrapping his left arm around the ball while grabbing it with his right hand. Despite his performance in college, Griffin almost wasn’t invited to the combine, receiving a late invitation at the end of January, but he’s quickly becoming the biggest story of the upcoming draft outside of this year’s quarterback class.

If a team decides to draft Griffin, he will be the first one-handed player in the NFL’s modern era. However, a one-handed athlete at the top level of professional sports is not unprecedented. Former MLB pitcher Jim Abbott was a fixture on the mound throughout the 1990s and threw a no-hitter in 1993 despite being born without his right hand, while Baxter Humby became an international kickboxing champion despite missing his right arm below the elbow.