Shaquem Griffin, a linebacker who lost his right hand at four-years-old, was chosen by the Seattle Seahawks in this year's NFL draft. He'll join up with his twin brother, Shaquil, who joined the Seahawks last year.
Linebacker Shaquem Griffin became the first one-handed player to be drafted into the National Football League (NFL) on Saturday.
Griffin's left hand was amputated when he was four years old because of a rare birth defect called Amniotic Band Syndrome — where a limb or digits are entangled in amniotic fibers in the womb.
The Seattle Seahawks chose the University of Central Florida player in the fifth round of the seven-round NFL draft — the mechanism by which teams recruit the best college football prospects to the professional level.
"That was the phone call I was waiting for my entire life," Griffin said, referring to the call from Seahawks general manager John Schneider when he was chosen. "I literally broke down after that. I couldn't breathe. I didn't know how to talk, I mean, I was just lost for words."
The linebacker received a standing ovation from the crowd in AT&T Stadium in Dallas, where the draft was taking place, when the Seahawks presented him.
Strong college career
Griffin, 22, played five seasons as a linebacker at UCF, making 197 tackles and 18 sacks in his career. He won the Defensive Player of the Year award in the American Athletic Conference in 2016 after registering 12 sacks.
At the NFL combine, where prospects do a series of drills for various scouts, he ran the fastest time of any linebacker in the 40-yard dash. He also bench pressed 225 pounds (100 kilograms) 20 times, using a prosthetic hand to complete the exercise.
With the selection, Seattle reunited Shaquem Griffin with his twin brother, Shaquill. The Seahawks picked Shaquill, a defensive back, in the third round of last year's NFL draft.
Shaquill said he lobbied for the Seattle coaching staff to pick his twin in this year's draft, saying he "kept his name fresh in that building."
"Every day I made sure to mention my brother about something, even was just, 'hey, man, my brother got a good workout in, his backpedal is looking smooth every day,'" said Shaquill, who started 11 of the Seahawks' 16 games last season.
"And they continued throughout this whole process to let me know how much they loved my brother, how much they loved my family … I'm glad they made this happen. It's a dream come true, not just being drafted, but being with my family and bringing my brother back home."
dv/mp (AFP, AP)