Pete Carroll, John Schneider recap a remarkable third day of Seahawks’ draft
This was a first.
Tears inside the team headquarters after a pick.
The Seahawks made the people's choice — and the dreams of twin brothers from the Gulf Coast of Florida come true — Saturday morning. They selected Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin in the fifth round, making him the first one-handed player drafted into the modern NFL, reuniting him and Seahawks starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin in Seattle and making grown men cry inside Seahawks headquarters.
"It doesn't matter if you have one hand, two hands, three hands, 40 hands," Shaquem Griffin said Saturday from the NFL draft site in Arlington, Texas, championing his exalted platform for everyone whose odds seem piled against them.
"The only person who can stop you is yourself."
The selection of Griffin headlined a remarkable third and final day of the Seahawks' 2018 draft folks will be talking about for, oh ... ever.
Seattle also pulled off a franchise and maybe league first, moving up seven places and trading a seventh-round draft choice so it could draft a punter in round five: Australian Michael Dickson from the University of Texas. And the Seahawks took just the second quarterback of the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era. Alex McGough from Florida International, the seventh-round choice Saturday, joins Russell Wilson (third round, 2012) with that distinction.
But it was the emotional, inspirational selection of Griffin that will resonate for years.
"I don't know that I've ever been in a more inspirational interview that we do (with players) at the combine than that one," Carroll, 66, said. "He was just so expressive and so open to tell his story and tell what this opportunity really meant to him, in such a way that he moved us all.
"He's an extraordinary young man. And he has a lot of messaging that he is going to stand strong with, that we are all going to grow from, I think.
"And beside that," the coach said, chuckling, "he's a REALLY good football player. He's an explosive, talented guy, and he backs it up. ... He's a very, VERY good blitzer."
The first question he got after the Seahawks called him to make history and thrill a family came from his twin.
"So, you going to live with me?" Shaquill asked him.
The answer is yes. Reunited.
Shaqiull said he will "knock down walls" in his Seattle-area place if he has to, put his bed in a closet, to make room for Shaquem to be his roomie.
"It was really like a dream. It was like I was dreaming," said Shaquem Griffin in a telephone interview . "Magical stuff started happening. It’s unexplainable, the emotions, everything that was going through my mind. It was crazy.
"I had a feeling, but the chances are really low, so just to be able to be there. I couldn’t ask for anything in the world to have an opportunity to be back. It was unexplainable. I couldn't ask for anything in the world than to be with my brother."
When Schneider called him and introduced himself, Shaquem told the Seahawks' GM: "I can't even breathe right now ... Thank you so much, sir! Oh, my God!"
Shaquem was actually using his hotel room's bathroom when he got that call. Shaquill grabbed his twin's phone, saw the 425 area code for Renton and recognized the number for the Seahawks' headquarters. He burst into the bathroom and there, right at the toilet, tackled Shaquem.
"You HAVE to get this!" he told him.
That bathroom then filled with brotherly tears.
"I'm so glad he didn't lock the door," Shaquill said through tears.
"This is just the beginning. I'm just so proud.
"I don't think I cried on MY draft day."
"It's going to be everything we've ever wanted. Everything we've prayed for," Shaquem Griffin said.
This pick goes so far beyond football.
Asked about the effect Shaquem Griffin's spirit and determination will have on Seahawks' locker room, Seattle general manager John Schneider said: "Shoot the whole building. The whole city."
Schneider said Griffin didn't miss any more tackles than all the two-handed linebackers, that his analytics staff showed he was in the middle of the pack of drafted linebackers in that statistic. That staff also showed Griffin's uncanny knack for making his biggest plays at the biggest times in games.
"And the rest of his stuff is just off the charts," the GM said. "Incredibly inspiring."
The twins were separated last year for the first time when Seattle drafted Shaquill, one minute older, and Shaquem became an all-conference linebacker for a 13-0 team in his redshirt-senior season at UCF. They hugged at the draft in a hotel room in Texas when the Seahawks announced their wildly popular pick.
Hours later, he returned to the stadium where he had spent the first two days at the draft. Shaquem took the main stage at the draft and joined Shaquill side by side on national television wearing matching Seahawks team caps. The fans inside the stadium roared, then mobbed Shaquem as he walked — paparazzi-style with guys in suits flanking him — across the floor of the stadium.
"Don't set limits for me," Shaquem Griffin said last month.
That was after Griffin, using a special prosthetic attached to his left arm to replace the hand he had amputated when he was a kid, did 20 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench-press testing in front of a wowing, roaring audience of NFL scouts and fans inside the Indiana Convention Center.
To get an idea how extraordinary that is: Orlando Brown of Oklahoma entered the combine considered as a first-round draft choice as a 360-pound left tackle. He did just 14 reps on the bench press there.
Schneider is as impressed — and wowed — with Shaquem as the rest of us are. The GM invoked the name of one of the most wondrous, impressive men in the history of a sports when talking about Shaquem at last month's NFL scouting combine.
“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 him.” Schneider said, referring to the legendary UCLA champion basketball coach, thinker, philosopher and motivator.
“He’s a special dude."
Griffin said he first used prosthetic technology during his freshman year at UCF.
“We went to go get it fitted for me. And when I started lifting, I could barely bench the bar,” he said. “I mean, I'm shaking all over the place and the bar is falling, and I can't lift 45 pounds.
“But it just goes to show how much work I put in to get to this point. From shaking with the bar...”
His voice trailed off into the memory of the first time his mother, Tangie Griffin, first saw him try a pull-up with the prosthetic.
“My mom saw me do my first pull-up my freshman year. And she's emotional and she started crying,” he said. “She walked out, and I thought, ‘You've got to let her be sometimes.’
“She does that. But it's amazing to see how far I came: From not being able to bench the bar to throwing up 20 reps at 225, and able to compete with the best here.”
Just like it did to Shaquill, the NFL originally did not invite Shaquem to this combine. Apparently, being an all-league linebacker in a major conference the past two seasons and MVP of the Peach Bowl when UCF beat Auburn on January 1 — all while playing with one hand — wasn’t worthy enough.
In late January, Shaquem impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl. He was the all-star game’s practice player of the week.
Then the NFL had a bout of common sense and invited Griffin. After he announced he got invited to the combine, congratulations poured in online from throughout the league.
Griffin has been using his social-media accounts and the hash tag #AgainstAllOdds to chronicle his push into the NFL.
And now he's here. In Seattle. Back with his twin.
"There have been so many doubters in everything I do," he said Saturday. "I still have doubters now. I'm glad I’m on the right team, and I am with guys that I will be able to grow with and better myself. I will be able to unleash everything that I have been holding to the other teams that didn’t give me a shot.”
The Seahawks will start out Griffin at weakside linebacker, to backup Pro Bowl veteran K.J. Wright. Wright turns 29 before the 2018 season and has an $8.2 million charge against Seattle's salary cap in 2018. It's the last year of his second contract.
Shaquill believes the Seahawks are going to use Shaquem as "a hybrid guy — at safety, off the edge (as a linebacker), on special teams. He's going to bounce around.
"I know he'll be ready for it."
Carroll confirmed that plan, weakside linebacker, blitzer and special-teams sprinter.
That's how Shaquem wants to be judged. Not as a one-handed wonder making NFL history and reuniting with his brother. As a defender that will slam you to the ground.
"They really are getting a diamond in the rough, I'm not going to lie to you," Shaquem said.
"Everyone thinks this is a sentimental story," he said. "But Shaquem Griffin doesn't think like that ... I am a football player, at the end of the day. If people want to feel sorry, or have any pity on me, well, then they are going to be the ones I am getting up off their back."
The Seahawks began Saturday by selecting University of Washington tight end Will Dissly in the fourth round, as Carroll continued to act on his promise to improve Seattle's running game this year. Dissly was regarded as the best blocking tight end in this draft class.
Schneider said he's the best blocking tight end the Seahawks have had since Zach Miller. The rugged Miller played for Seattle from 2011-14.
"It's unbelievable. It wasn't the perfect story by any means. I'm just glad it worked out. And it's not over yet," Dissly said. "That's awesome. Four years at U-Dub, and now right across the water there."
Dissly was speaking by telephone Saturday morning from his family home in Bozeman, Mont.
"It feels like the whole town is here," he said.
"When I heard I got the call, I was just really excited to be a Seahawk. ... I'm ready to grow."
When he first got the call, he told Schneider: "No s**t?"
"No s**t," Schneider said.
"Hell, yeah," Dissly said.
After the memorable selection of Griffin, Seattle drafted Oklahoma State safety Tre Flowers, whom Carroll says will be a safety for the Seahawks.
Then they completed another franchise first: They traded up seven places and gave up one of their two seventh-round choices to take a punter. Michael Dickson was a 10-year Austrailian Rules Football player whom the University of Texas then signed to a punting scholarship off a YouTube video. Carroll said he saw Dickson drop-kick a ball 60 yards on film.
"Who do you know that can do that?" Carroll said.
Schneider says Dickson does spins, techniques on the ball they've never seen anyone else even try.
Dickson's arrival surely puts veteran punter Jon Ryan on notice, The longest-tenured Seahawk (on the team since 2008) has two years left on his non-guaranteed contract. Seattle could save $2 million against its salary cap this year by releasing Ryan.
Carroll and Schnieder said only that Dickson is arriving to compete with Ryan and may the best man win.
With its two picks in the sixth round the Seahawks selected Jamarco Jones, Ohio State's starting left tackle the past two seasons who fell in the draft because of poor pre-draft workouts, and Temple defensive end Jacob Martin.
Martin played his 2016 conference-championship game on a broken foot.
"It's a lot harder than you think," Martin deadpanned.
He was watching a SpongeBob Squarepants cartoon when the Seahawks called.