In an open letter posted on The Players’ Tribune addressed to all 32 NFL general managers, linebacker Shaquem Griffin of the 13-0 University of Central Florida Knights made the case as to why they should believe in him when draft day rolls around.
So why exactly would the 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year (who also earned first-team all-conference honors in 2017) be compelled to write such a letter?
Because the 74 tackles, seven sacks, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and single interception Griffin made in 2017 were all recorded without the use of his left hand.
Due to a rare prenatal condition, the fingers on Griffin’s left hand were never able to fully develop and it eventually became necessary for the hand to be amputated. As Griffin made clear in his letter, he refused to let his birth defect – or people who chose to focus on it – prevent him from playing football. Now that he’s about to enter the draft, that mindset hasn’t changed.
“If you’re one of those GMs who believes that I can play in the NFL, I just want to say thank you. I appreciate you, and I’m excited for the opportunity to play for you and prove you right,” Griffin writes. “And if you’re one of those who is doubting me … well, I want to thank you, too. Because you’re what keeps me motivated every day to work hard and play even harder.”