Let’s be honest: The NFL Combine is a really weird event. Every year, a collection of the best college football players in the country go to Indianapolis to wear spandex and not play football. They get measured, poked, prodded, run around on a field, do some jumping and some benching, and a nation watches it on television. If aliens ever came from another planet, it would be pretty tough to explain that one. And it would be impossible to explain what we saw this past weekend. Because as good as Saquon Barkley was, and he was great, which I’ll get to later, he was not the star of the weekend. That honor goes to Shaquem Griffin.
The UCF linebacker who had his left hand amputated when he was four, who was the conference defensive player of the year in his first season as a starter, who was All-Conference, All-American, and had 12 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks against Auburn in the Peach Bowl. The guy who led UCF to an undefeated season. And the guy who despite all those honors, wasn’t originally invited to the Combine.
So when he finally got that invite, you knew he was going to show up in a big way. And he did. Because when he got to the bench press on Saturday, he didn’t just crush the bench, he damn near broke the internet.
20 reps. With a prosthetic hand. And Twitter exploded. Not just from regular fans, but Pro Bowlers who were picking their jaws up off the floor.
Von Miller: I would love to play with this guy! Salute @Shaquemgriffin
JJ Watt: Shaquem Griffin killing it
The same Shaquem Griffin who wasn’t invited to the combine in the first place. I don’t want to say I told you so, but I did actually tell you so back in January. When I said then, it was a joke that this guy wasn’t invited to the combine. And this is why he should’ve gotten that invite from the outset. Because he’s a stud.
But he’s honest enough to admit that he even surprised himself on the bench: “My goal was six. I think I beat that by a lot. I didn’t know I had it in me, but it came out today.”
He told SI on Saturday: “Once I got here, I shot through the roof. I don’t know what was going on. I felt like I could just start curling 225. I’m pretty sure that come tomorrow; the adrenaline is going to be going crazy. If I feel this good right now just doing the bench press, I can’t wait to see how I am tomorrow.”
Nobody could wait and they didn’t have to wait very long for the fireworks on Sunday. Because in the 40, he lined up and he dropped a 4.38 in the 40. Yes, 4.38.
The fastest time by a linebacker since 2003. And the third fastest time by anyone in Indy this year. That turned some heads, like Antonio Brown, who tweeted: sheeeeeeeeeesh #boomin
Richard Sherman: ‘If Shaquem Griffin doesn’t get drafted in the first two days the system is broken. Productive and performed well at the combine. Played well against high level competition.’
Yes, there have been plenty of guys who’ve killed it at the combine and it never translated to the NFL. No names mentioned, rhymes with Bike Bamula.
But Griffin is more than just an incredible athlete with an incredible story. The guy brings it. As Mike Mayock said, “he’s an energy giver.” He makes everyone around him better and he’ll do whatever it takes. As Griffin said, “I want to be able to show NFL teams that whatever you need help at, I can play it. Want me to play kicker or punter? All I need to do is get a good stretch in and warm up my foot.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he’s not a feel-good story. He’s a football story. And a damn good one at that. And absolutely I want this guy on my team. Because there aren’t many that are like him. And it has absolutely to do with him having lose his hand as a child. He’s a freaky athlete, a tremendous leader and the guy will do anything you ask and play anywhere you need him. And the fact that the guy who ripped the entire combine didn’t get an invite in the first place, is an absolute joke. Especially given how many others he helped by being there and that he helped himself tremendously.