Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin was a fifth-round NFL draft pick. He’s also one of the only NFL players to ever be drafted with what would typically be considered a disqualifying disability ⏤ he’s missing his left hand. And now Griffin is inspiring a whole new generation of disabled athletes one game and, as it turns out, jersey at a time. This week, a video went viral of an 11-year-old boy named Daniel crying after receiving a Shaquem Griffin jersey on his birthday. There’s a reason the gift meant so much more to the boy than, say, a Russel Wilson jersey: it turns out that Daniel is also a one-handed football player.
While the jersey wasn’t actually from Griffin personally ⏤ it was from a family friend ⏤ the star linebacker caught wind of the video and gave Daniel a shout-out on Twitter, wishing him a happy birthday and inviting him to a game in Seattle. Daniel has reportedly accepted the invitation and will travel to with his family from California to watch Griffin and the Seahawks play the 49ers this December.
— Justin Smith (@just10ized) October 19, 2018
Shaquem, who plays alongside his brother Shaquill on the Seahawks defense, has often spoken about how getting better at football is as much about having an intense work ethic as it was about overcoming a disability. And his dad, Terry, reiterated the sentiment in a recent interview with Fatherly.
“We never used the word ‘disability.’ I believe if you give a kid an excuse he’ll use it on you. I told Shaquem to work hard. If you want something in life, you have to work hard for it. Shaquem and Shaquill understand that you have to grind for what you want.”
“I’m blessed to have thick skin,” Shaquem wrote in an essay published in the Player’s Tribune. “But I’m even more blessed to have a family that never let me make excuses and who raised me to never listen to anybody who told me I couldn’t do something — especially because of my hand.”