The move was a bold one in a sense, not because of what it cost the Seahawks in draft capital, but in what it would mean if Pete Carroll subsequently went back on the pick months later. If you have the “feel good moment of the draft,” it just as easily sets you up to have the “feel bad story of training camp.”
It’s now January of 2019, and we’ve yet to feel bad about Seattle keeping the Griffin bros together for 16 games and counting.
It was a story prior to the 2018 draft season, but Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin caught more national attention this past April when ESPN posted this video detailing their story. I’ve even recently shared this story with someone as a way to endear them to the team and show, “Even if you don’t care about the Seahawks, maybe you can care about two players on the Seahawks.”
Of course it worked. And of course she immediately sent it to her mom. And this video came out before the draft. Before a pairing of teammates so on-brand for a Disney movie that I’m surprised the “The Blind Side” version of this hasn’t hit before the next Super Bowl has.
I guess Disney could still be waiting to see if the ending to the real story could outdo the Hollywood version. We all are. But first we should reverse to the first act and lead our way into the montage first before all of that.
Shaquem Griffin first became known to Seahawks fans a year before his own name was called when Seattle picked his twin brother Shaquill in the third round on April 28, 2017. During that year’s training camp, The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell detailed the history of the two brothers:
It’s a role reversal for Griffin, a student rather than a teacher and mentor.
He’s been an inspiration for his twin brother – and vice versa – ever since Shaquem had to have his left hand amputated when they was 4 years old, because of a congenital disorder known as amniotic band syndrome. It occurs in about one out of every 1,200 births. The twins played sports together throughout growing up in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. So Shaquill told college recruiters, such as from his dream school, Miami, if they wanted him to sign for a scholarship, that program would have to sign his twin brother, too.
Heart strings check one: Familial bonds.
Next, Griffin goes over why he started giving back to the community as a barely-teen athlete who felt he had a greater purpose:
Throughout that experience Shaquill realized he should mentor and motivate kids. That’s why when he was 14 he began the St. Pete Nitro track team for kids aged 4 to 18. He still has the club in St. Petersburg, his birthplace, though he has surrogates coaching for him now that he’s in Seattle.
“I feel like the situations that we have to overcome that me and my brother go through, I felt like I was in a position to try to reach kids,” Griffin said. “I have my own track team and I have a lot of kids who look up to me and I feel like I found a way to reach out to people. People tend to listen to me, so I feel like it’s easy for me to be a motivational speaker. I always feel like I want to give back. I was just raised that way. I want the team to do that and use this platform to reach everybody that I can.”
Heart strings check two: Giving to others in need.
And while some may feel apprehensive to talk about Shaquem in regards to his amputated hand, Shaquill was not among them. In fact, in talking to Jayson Jenks of The Seattle Times, Shaquill says he loves to motivates others and that Shaquem is a big reason why:
“We don’t have anything here that’s like that and money is an issue sometimes with people,” Shaquill told the paper. “I want to be able to help out and give back to people and give them something nice to be able to train at and get a chance to get a head start on things.
“And just continue to push out my brother’s story while I reach out to kids.”
5, His brother, Shaquem, had a great reaction when the Seahawks drafted him.
“I think he just ran out,” Shaquill said. “I didn’t see him. He was too excited. He just ran out. I didn’t get a chance to see the expression on his face. He knew the word when the phone started ringing.”
The same story was echoed by ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia in May of that year, well before ESPN ran their video piece 11 months later, including the horrifying moment when their mother Tangie realized that Shaquem’s pain in his fingers grew to the point that a a four-year-old he grabbed a knife and begged to have his hand cut off.
“When it got to the point where it was so bad that I saw him literally grab a knife to cut his hand off, I knew at that point, it was time to do something,” Tangie said.
Added Shaquem, “I guess I kind of gave a hint to my mom.”
Shaquem doesn’t remember much about the surgery. One minute, he was pulling his red wagon down the hospital hallway. The next, he was waking up with his hand bandaged. A day later, Shaquem was outside playing football with his brother.
”Ever since that procedure, he’s been able to do everything else anyone could do,” Shaquill said.
Heart string check three: the unbreakable connection between Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin. And this was the one connection that Seahawks fans, and potentially Pete Carroll and John Schneider, didn’t want to see broken.
Shaquill and Shaquem formulated a plan around the age of 10. They would go to high school and college together. They’d marry another set of twins. They’d pool their money to buy a house and live in it together with their families.
Tangie never believed they were serious until Shaquill started getting recruited heavily in high school.
“I started having some of the coaches calling me and saying, ‘Hey, we’re offering Shaquill, but he’s telling me if we don’t offer Shaquem, he’s not interested,’” Tangie said. “And I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ That’s when it hit me that they are really serious about this.”
I’ll set you up for heart string check four: Shaquem Griffin was also an underdog, even after UCF agreed to take both him and his brother.
For the first three years they were in college together, Griffin barely played. You may already know this because as I’ve said, this is a story that was echoed in Seattle for a full year before the 2018 NFL Draft. But Shaquem nearly quit, if not have the pair transfer somewhere else together, and they always planned to transfer together if that’s what it came down to.
“Every decision that we tried to make, it was a decision for both of us -- not just oneself,” Shaquill said. “And that’s kind of how we grew up together.
”We weren’t going to let anybody separate us. I’m glad I made the decision that I did to stay in Orlando with him and play football with him. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Said Shaquem of Shaquill: “He always says he’s my big brother, and he acts like it,” says Shaquem. “He’s a minute older, but he acts like it’s 10 years.”
It didn’t have to come down to a transfer though. While George O’Leary was the head coach that “took a chance” on Shaquem while recruiting Shaquill, Scott Frost was the one who actually allowed him to start, beginning in 2016. That UCF team went 6-7 after finishing 0-12 the year before. Shaquem won Defensive Player of the Year honors in the conference that season and Shaquill became the 90th overall pick in the following draft.
While Shaquill enjoyed a successful season as a rookie starter for the Seahawks opposite All-Pro Richard Sherman (who always spoke very highly of Shaquill), Shaquem helped the Golden Knights to a perfect 13-0 record. In fact, prior to their Fiesta Bowl loss to LSU on January 1, UCF hadn’t lost a game since Shaquill was there. In their bowl game prior to that, a 34-27 victory over Auburn, Shaquem had 12 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, and 1.5 sacks.
That was his final college game, which came in the only season of his football life that wasn’t shared with his brother. At best, he could come visit Shaquill when the Seahawks came to Jacksonville to play the Jaguars last season:
Seattle Seahawks v Jacksonville Jaguars
And after his final collegiate season, after Seattle missed the playoffs for the first time in the Russell Wilson era, there was only one thing in the near future for the Griffin bros to focus on.
The 2018 NFL Draft.
From a combine “snub” to a combine “superstar,” Griffin stole the show for most of the NFL winter-spring as it related to the draft.
Source: Field Gulls | Kenneth Arthur | January 3, 2018