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“It does not matter how much I have hands, I’m ready to play”: a one-handed football player tries to get into the NFL

In March, the National Football League (NFL) draft pick-up is held in the United States – an annual review of newcomers wishing to become professional players in American football. Teams are looking for potential stars, and young athletes are trying to stand out from the competition.

The main hero of this event in 2018 was Shakem Griffin (Shaquem Griffin) – a 22-year-old defender, who showed impressive results in all tests. Representatives of the NFL are not in a hurry to call him to their club for one reason: he does not have one brush. But Griffin is trying his best to break into professional sports and become an example for thousands of children.

Photos of SI
Photos of SI

Photos of The Players Tribune
Photos of The Players Tribune

NFL photo
NFL photo

Griffin lost his hand in four years

Shackem Griffin was born in 1995 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Unlike twin brother Shakil, at birth doctors found him a rare defect – a syndrome of amniotic constrictions of the left hand, because of which any touch caused him unbearable pain.

In 1999, Griffin’s mother Tenji woke with screams. Entering the kitchen, she saw Shakem with a knife, carried over his hand.

“Mom, I can not do this anymore, it hurts me,” he shouted. Tenji put him to sleep, and the next morning the surgeons amputated the boy to the left hand. After the operation, the mother forbade him and think about football. But, after returning from work, she found bandages in her blood. And smiling Shakem with a ball for American football.

The athlete recalled that his father Terry himself made several adjustments for his son to raise the bar, push-ups and other strength training. Also, Terry Griffin deliberately threw Shakemu “difficult” passes so that he did not feel any indulgence. “I caught the ball a couple of times before I learned how to use one hand,” he said.

He became a star in the university

Shakil and Shakem together dreamed of becoming professional football players. Before that, both had to go to college, so both waited for proposals from universities. But the first was considered a rising star, and the second did not want to take anywhere because of an amputated brush.

The trainer of the University of Central Florida George O’Leary invited both to the team. The first season Shakil held in the first team, and Shakem almost did not appear on the field. But after an unsuccessful championship O’Leary left his post, and the new coach gave a chance to a one-armed athlete.

In 2016, Shakem Griffin was recognized as the best defender of the year in his conference. In one match, he broke a healthy hand and played in a cast, but still dumped the opponent’s players. “All my life I played with one hand, without hands – not much more difficult”, – said the football player. In 2017, Shakila Griffin was invited to the NFL, and Shakem stayed at the university for another year.

NFL teams did not believe in him

Despite the successes in the student league, representatives of professional teams in American football doubted whether it is worth giving a one-armed athlete a chance. In January 2018, the best students were sent invitations to the draft combine-Shakem Griffin did not get on the list.

However, there is no point in the rules of the league that prohibits playing without hands. The only limitation is that you can not use a prosthesis that can damage other players

I remember how in my childhood the coach told me that you can play football only if you have two hands. I reread all the arches of football rules that I could get, but I did not find the rules anywhere that would say about two hands. I am constantly told that with one hand I will not get through anywhere. And I’m ready to prove again to everyone that it does not matter how many hands I have: one, two, twenty-two. I’m ready to play football.

Shackem Griffin
football player

After the dissatisfaction of the fans, Shakem still received an invitation. But NFL experts agreed that he is unlikely to become a professional football player, and if he does, he will be a deep reserve player.

Griffin surprised everyone at the test

In March 2018, the draft combine began: it was attended by representatives of football teams, scouts and journalists, and the surrender of standards is shown on television. The results of such a congress directly affect whether a player becomes a professional.

One of the first tests was the press of the 102-kilogram barbell from the chest. Shakem fixed the prosthesis to the brush and was able to lift it 20 times. “As soon as it all began, I felt the energy coming out literally from everyone. Adrenaline was hitting the key, and there was no feeling that it was time to stop, “Griffin said after handing over the standard. Before that, he could do only six repetitions.

Another test is running for 40 yards (36 meters). One-handed player overcame the distance in 4.38 seconds, becoming the fastest player in his position in the last 15 years.

A successful performance at the Congress of Scouts increased the chances of Griffin to hit the NFL. He was supported by the stars of the league, and some managers appointed him a meeting. One such club is Seattle Seahawks, where Shakil Griffin plays the second season. The draft (selection of players) of the NFL will be held on April 26, 2018.

He wrote an open letter to the NFL teams

Before the Congress of Scouts, Shakem published a letter to the managers of the American football teams on the website of The Players Tribune, the editors and authors of which are professional athletes. Griffin remembered how the first coaches did not let him play, because “sport is for people with two hands.” He remembered sleeping on an inflatable mattress on a football field in his last year in college, so as not to be distracted from training.

Footballer directly appealed to the league: “If you are a general manager of the NFL and believe in me, I just want to say thank you. Because I will prove to you that you are right. And if you do not believe it, then thank you too. Because of this, I will try to be better. ”

It seems to me that all boys and girls with congenital malformations … We have our own small nation. We must support each other, because everyone in this world deserves to show what he is capable of. And do not hear in response that he can not do something.

Shackem Griffin
football player

According to Shakem, many people are constantly looking for excuses for themselves over trifles and ultimately moving away from their goal. But he is ready to go to the end and become a professional football player, even with one hand.


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