SEATTLE – OK, who wrote this one?
Was it Spielberg? Sorkin, maybe? Did Peter Jackson play a role?
Because this can’t be real life. It’s just too good.
Shaquem Griffin had been the darling of his draft class since his superhero performance at the NFL combine in March. In addition to running the fastest 40-yard dash for a linebacker (4.38 seconds) in 15 years, he bench-pressed 225 pounds 20 times … without a left hand.
Born with a condition that prevented his fingers in his left hand to develop, Griffin had the hand amputated at the age of 4. He has since gained national acclaim as a University of Central Florida linebacker who earned American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Griffin’s mug would have been plastered across every sports outlet in the country regardless of who took him. No NFL team in modern history had ever drafted a player missing a hand.
But when the Seahawks selected him with the 141st pick on Saturday, the story went from sentimental to cinematic. Just like that, Shaquem was reunited with his identical twin, Shaquill.
“Who was more excited, you or your brother?” Shaquem was asked.
“My brother,” he said. “I was really, really, really excited, but he put an extra ‘really’ on his excitement.”
Shaquill actually knew the Seahawks were taking him before his younger brother (by a minute) did. While Shaquem was using the restroom at his Dallas hotel, Shaquill saw a number with a 425 area code calling his phone.
Disregarding any respect for privacy, Shaquill barged into the bathroom to hand his brother the phone – although not before tackling him with joy.
For 21 of their 22 years on earth, Shaq and Shaq have been inseparable. Despite receiving scholarship offers from more prestigious programs, Shaquill chose to play alongside Shaquem at UCF.
But because Shaquem redshirted as a freshman and Shaquill did not, Shaquill went pro a year earlier than his brother. And though the two still talked every day and watched every one of each other’s games, they knew chances of a long-term reunion were slim.
Maybe that’s why Shaquill cried Saturday despite going tear-free when the Seahawks drafted him one year earlier. Maybe that’s why grins never left either of their faces during interviews with the NFL Network and ESPN.
We only have so many dreams in life. Imagine two of them coming true at the same time.
“It’s funny. I feel like there was maybe a 1 percent chance that you get twin brothers on the same team,” said Shaquill, a cornerback who went in the third round last year. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I was just going to be happy no matter what team would get the opportunity.”
The emotion wasn’t limited to the Griffins’ side of the phone. Seahawks general manager John Schneider has been making these calls for nine years but said he had trouble keeping it together while talking with Shaquem.
In the words of Pete Carroll: “My partner over here was kind of a mess.”
Can you blame him?
This is a guy who, despite racking up 166 tackles in his final two years at UCF, didn’t receive an initial invite to the NFL combine. This is a guy whose father would create various devices out of wood so that Shaquem could do bench presses, curls and pull-ups.
Excuses were nonexistent in the Griffin household. Results were the only focus. And for him to be drafted by a team in the most visible league in the country? No matter where you were, it was getting dusty.
Schneider and Carroll were so high on Griffin’s character that it sounded almost hyperbolic.
Carroll said he’s never been part of a more inspirational interview than the one he had with Shaquem at the combine. Schneider said that someone told him that the five minutes he spent with Shaquem was every bit as motivating as the five minutes he once spent with John Wooden.
That kind of praise isn’t high so much as it is skyscraping – but it sounds like Griffin has earned it.
Obviously, there is still the process of Shaquem actually making the team. Carroll gushed about his potential as a weakside linebacker, but the country is littered with fifth-round picks who never played a regular-season snap.
Something feels different about Shaquem’s situation, though. Failure never seems to want to be associated with him.
I can’t tell you who wrote this script, but I know it deserves a happy ending.
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