Shaquem Griffin overcomes doubters to be drafted by Seattle Seahawks
When Pete Carroll finished his brief phone conversation Saturday with Shaquem Griffin, dozens of staffers in the Seahawks draft room burst into applause.
At the headquarters of an NFL organization, cheering is more appropriate than crying, but there was plenty of that, too, surrounding a feel-good story destined to be adapted into a Disney movie: The football player symbolizing a lifetime of tenacity reunited with the twin brother who now is a teammate.
The Seahawks didn’t choose Shaquem Griffin in the fifth round because it was a brilliant public-relations move. Griffin is a comprehensively talented linebacker with the potential to develop into an edge pass rusher as effective as Bruce Irvin once was under Carroll.
“I’m open to about anything,” Griffin said during a conference call with Seattle-area reporters. “Rushing and covering and playing special teams, whatever it takes. I’m ready to go.”
Whatever role awaits Griffin, be brings a biographical profile to the Seahawks that has the quality of fresh air. Last season sustained the team’s tendency to create as much commotion off the field as on it.
Since the Seahawks won Super Bowl 48, Carroll has been in an almost constant crisis-management mode. Richard Sherman fighting with assistant coaches ... The mother of Marshawn Lynch writing critical text messages about the offensive play calling ... The ESPN magazine story, published on the eve of the 2017 season, depicting a locker room divided ... Earl Thomas chasing down the opposing coach after games, Michael Bennett sitting on the sideline before them.
Bennett, who has been traded to the Eagles, recently told a Sports Illustrated reporter that Carroll’s team-meeting talks had become so stale for the defensive end, he would tune the coach out and read a book.
Carroll insisted that such a gesture of disrespect never happened, but the tone of Bennett’s criticism was appropriate: Even after players leave Seattle, there’s bickering.
And then, in a sequence of events that began with the Seahawks acquiring Houston’s fifth-round pick from the Duane Brown trade and culminated with Shaquem Griffin learning he’d been drafted by the team that drafted his brother, the bad vibes were gone.
“It was like I was dreaming,” Griffin said of his conversation with general manager John Schneider. “Magical stuff started happening. It’s inexplicable, the emotions, everything that was going through my mind. It was crazy.”
Since Griffin was named MVP of the Peach Bowl that capped Central Florida’s 13-0 season, magic stuff has been the norm for the player whose left hand was amputated as a child. He wasn’t asked to participate in the pre-draft combine despite his impressive performance in the Senior Bowl, then finally scored a invitation that dazzled scouts.
But the topper was Saturday, when Day Three of the draft — typically as long and laborious as a telethon — turned into a spirit-affirming celebration about the bond between Shaquem Grififfin and his twin brother Shaquill.
“It’s gonna come down to football,” said Carroll. “But I don’t know if the story ever goes to rest because it is so inspirational. He and his brother own an extraordinary connection of love and heart and all the cool things they represent.
“Shaquem has overcome a tremendous amount by believing in himself, but also because of the belief his brother has in him. It’s a real life drama. It’s a worthwhile story. It’s a fantastic story.”
Hawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin, selected out of Central Florida in the third round last year, offered a scouting report on his brother.
“Well, he is my twin,” said Shaquill. “So, he will be humble, unselfish, willing to do anything and whatever it takes and a hard worker. He is coachable. He is willing to take little things from everybody. He is coachable and will learn the stuff, and not feel like he knows it all. He will be humble about it, he will work his butt off. He’s going to be unselfish and he’s going to be willing to play any position that the Seattle Seahawks put him at. He’s going to do it to the best of his ability.”
A major reason the Griffin narrative is so inspirational is that he is, first and foremost, a football player whose disability is obscured once the ball is snapped. That he does not have a left hand did not compromise his ability to make as many tackles as other college linebackers with two hands.
“Off the charts” is how Schneider described Griffin’s athleticism. “I mean, wow.”
“Wow” was the operative word Saturday, when Griffin was surrounded by a mob of fans at AT&T Stadium suggesting he wasn’t so much a Day Three draft choice than a household-name celebrity.
Asked if Griffin could make an impact on his new teammates, Schneider assured the impact would be felt throughout “the whole building, the whole city.”
The whole city? Try the whole country.
Don’t sell anything about Shaquem Griffin short.