BY Art Thiel 08:57PM 04/28/2018

Thiel: Shaquem Griffin and the one-handed lift

The Seahawks draft of Shaquem Griffin wasn’t exactly a shock, but it was exactly a thrill and an inspiration in times that are desperate for both.

Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin attended the NFL draft together in Dallas with other family members. / nfl.com

Never in my time in Seattle sports has the arrival of a pro athlete evoked a response  sufficient to make its own weather. That’s how I’m explaining the indoor rainfall on my face when I heard Shaquem Griffin was coming to playing football for the Seahawks.

I doubt I was the only one affected by a rain delay.

“My partner here,” said a grinning coach Pete Carroll Saturday afternoon, nodding toward GM John Schneider, “was kind of a mess, to tell you the truth, when he handed me the phone.”

Schneider had just finished selecting Griffin with Seattle’s first of four fifth-round picks and made the congratulatory call welcoming Shaquill Griffin’s one-minute younger twin brother. I’m guessing the call went something like this:

“Um, hey dude . . . you know . . . just calling to say . . . uh . . . damn. Here’s Pete.”

For as outlandishly overwrought as is the spectacle of the NFL draft, every once in awhile it resolves a chord so sublimely that it touches the soul. Even when the moment was not necessarily a surprise to those who follow the Seahawks and the draft and know the story of the one-handed football player, his hire to the sports pinnacle — in tandem with his twin  — was a climactic moment that clutches the throat and restores the faith.

Griffin, Schneider said, was cool.

“He was totally fine,” Schneider said. “He had the situation in hand.”

Griffin has the advantage of living inside the saga for the past 18 years, ever since he tried self-amputation to relieve the pain in his undeveloped left hand caused by a rare defect from birth called amniotic band syndrome. It delivered constant, hot anguish to a little boy each time his soft fingers and hand touched something.

The subsequent story of a successful yet depressing surgical outcome, followed by years of adaptation and athletic success, was the talk of college football, the scouting combine and now the broader audience of the pro draft. Griffin so understands the significance of his feat and its meaning to others that he betrays no annoyance. He seems almost serene.

“Somebody told me that they had sat down with him for five minutes,” Schneider said, “and they gained the same inspiration from him as they did the first time he was able to sit with John Wooden.”

That is a sign of a strong man at peace with himself in the face of overwhelming attention.

“At first it was (hard), but when you do something so long, you start getting adjusted to it,” Griffin said Saturday from Dallas in a teleconference with reporters. “It is not as hard as you think.

“Just being in the act of being yourself at all times, that’s the best thing.  I’m never going to change who I am.  I’m not going to change the way I think or play football or anything else I do.”

Carroll admits to having been blown away in February when he met Griffin at the combine in Indianapolis.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a more inspirational interview than that one,” he said.  “He was just so expressive and so open to tell his story, and to tell what this opportunity meant to him. He moved us all. He’s an extraordinary young man. He has a lot of messaging that he’s going to stand strong with, and we’re all going to grow from, I think.

“I think probably the coolest thing that happened at the combine is that he said to us in our meeting, ‘I’m going to run faster than my brother.’  When our handheld clocks came off, he beat his brother’s time. We went nuts about it, because he called it. So, it started the lore about this kid.”

Griffin made it plain that the lore is second to football.

“Everybody thinks it is a sentimental story, but Shaquem Griffin doesn’t think like that,” he said. “I’m a guy who is going to come in and work my butt off.  I’m going to learn as fast as possible. I’m going to contribute the best way possible.

“If you want me to rush, I will rush. I will give everything I got.

“If you want me to cover, I will cover and I will give everything I got.

“I am a football player at the end of the day. People who feel sorry or have any pity on me, they are the ones that are going to have to get off or get back.”

For those of us who had occasion this weekend to look up from the draft, Griffin’s selection stood in ironic relief against another ghastly rhetorical dump from President Trump when he intersected with sports.

At a ceremony Friday at the White House celebrating the U.S. Winter Olympians and Paralympians after the Games in South Korea, Trump groped futilely in his usual word salad and came up with gravel.

“What happened with the Paralympics was so incredible and so inspiring to me,” Trump said. “And I watched — it’s a little tough to watch too much, but I watched as much as I could.”

The hope is that the president can avert his eyes when the Seahawks are on TV this fall, where he would see another icky thing a little too tough to watch.

With a stump where his hand should be, Shaquem Griffin will be doing his professional sports job as well as Trump’s job — helping lift humanity.


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YourThoughts

  • Ron

    Trump is deplorable. Proof that there is no God.

    • art thiel

      Religion and politics in one response. We’ve broken the sports-comment customs.

    • woofer

      I humbly beg to differ. The fact that America’s blind date with authoritarianism turned out to be the hopelessly swinish and incompetent Trump offers proof positive of the existence of Divine Grace. Can you imagine how much worse off this country would be if Trump had an actual functioning brain?

  • Husky73

    Kudos, Art. Very good.

    • art thiel

      Thanks.

  • Bruce McDermott

    So much for journalistic distance :). But it speaks well of you, Art. Very moving, that kid.

    • art thiel

      I appreciate you even knowing about journalistic distance. It’s important. Until it isn’t.

  • DJ

    Awesome article! Thanks Art
    I’m happy that the Seahawks made a uniquely great move, I’m glad that you got a chance to write about it.

    • art thiel

      Thanks, DJ. I look forward to compelling subjects, and the Seahawks have been high-end suppliers.

  • Alan Harrison

    Here comes that indoor rain again.

    • art thiel

      Feel free. It’s better that way.

  • Bayview Herb

    With Griffin playing LB, maybe that will cut down on holding penalties.

    • Ron

      Deplorable, Herb. And since when does the defense ever get called for holding.

      • John M

        How could ol’ Herb not be, I think he does it to rattle our cages . . .

        • Bayview Herb

          Bingo!

          • Effzee

            Way to contribute to the overall good. So useful.

          • Bayview Herb

            About as useful as sarcasm.

      • Bayview Herb

        Well you have raised two points. First, yes I am a deplorable. Second, Oops!

  • tor5

    These moments are the best of the sports-culture intersection and you captured it so well, Art. Thanks.

    • art thiel

      I like hanging at that street corner.

  • WestCoastBias79

    An awesome story. I do wonder what the plan with him is. He has Safety speed and would seem to be a natural successor to Chancellor, and Pete loves the oversized enforcer Safety.

    • John M

      From the first time I saw a clip of Shaquem I thought here is a SS that could terrorize receivers.

      And thanks for admitting to being affected as many of us were, Art, great piece. I was getting really worried by the 5th they wouldn’t get him. The twins could be the start of the new LOB . . .

      • art thiel

        Carroll says weakside LB first, but training camp may send him in a different direction.

    • art thiel

      Carroll said he’s going to start at weakside LB behind Wright, using his speed to chase down the play. Seems his strength is better suited to be at the line more than dropping back, although he could shadow TEs.

      • WestCoastBias79

        Weakside LB would make sense, also makes sense because Wright is the best coverage LB on the team and does often cover TE’s. Bradley McDougald was actually pretty good last year, but was no enforcer.

        Really, I hope Chancellor can come back *if* it’s safe to (as safe as this sport is) for a couple of years.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    An amazing thing happened yesterday . Here’s part of an e-mail I sent to friends and family this morning :

    The National Football League is 32 teams with 53 players on each team , and these 1696 young men represent the finest athletes in the world at this or any other sport . Nine in every 10 thousand high school seniors playing football will be drafted , or .09% . And many who are drafted won’t make the final roster cuts . The chances of twins both making it in the NFL , playing for the same team at the same time – one of them the first player since professional football began in 1892 to ever be drafted with only one hand – is astronomical . You have better odds of winning the lottery , literally .

    But as amazing as all of that is , that’s not what I saw yesterday that was so amazing . What I saw was other teams fans standing and applauding . What I saw were Christians , Jews and Muslims cheering as one . What I saw was Republicans and Democrats embracing one another – complete strangers . What I saw was human beings being human again . Suddenly , all the differences between people melted away for a moment as we stood and cheered the triumph of the human spirit over adversity .

    Young Mr. Griffin did the exact opposite our illustrious president does ; he brought people together .

    • art thiel

      Thanks for the observations. A lot of power is in the Griffin story.

  • ll9956

    Well done, Art. ‘Nuff said.

    • art thiel

      Thanks.

  • rosetta_stoned

    Your incessant Trump hatred overshadows any other positives you might bring to the article, Art.

    • art thiel

      Actually, I found a typo that really bothered me.

  • rosetta_stoned

    “I bowled a 129,” he told Leno.

    “That’s very good, Mr. President,” Leno said sarcastically.

    But then came the foot-in-mouth moment: “It’s like the Special Olympics or something,” the president said.

    Smooth talker, that Obama guy.