UCF redshirt junior outside linebacker Shaquem Griffin made his first career start this year against South Carolina State. He co-led the team in tackles, with six. And he did it with one hand.
As the Orlando Sentinel's Shannon Green reports, Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome. That's an exceedingly rare congenital birth defect, which affects less than one in a thousand babies. Griffin got it, and when he was 4 years old, his left hand had to be amputated.
Griffin went on to finish the regular season No. 7 in the country in sacks and win American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors, leading UCF to a 6-6 bounceback year after an 0-12 2015.
Griffin has been in UCF's program for three years now. He redshirted on the 2013 team that won the Fiesta Bowl, and he stuck it out through last year and the coaching change afterward. He played in one game as a redshirt freshman two seasons ago, then played a bunch on special teams and a little bit on defense last year.
Griffin's twin, Shaquill, also plays for UCF. He's a senior defensive back, and the brothers have stuck with each other for their entire lives. And they've been tested, plenty. As Green writes:
Playing with one hand isn't the problem for Shaquem. Convincing other people he can do it has been the bigger hurdle on his journey.
He and his brother have seen their share of doubters throughout the years. As a high school athlete, Shaquill turned down offers from bigger schools that wouldn't give his brother a spot on the team. And after playing on the scout team for most of his three seasons at UCF, Shaquem thought about transferring.
Shaquill says he would have left with his brother if it came to that, but Travis Fisher, who coached cornerbacks last season before taking over the entire secondary, gave Shaquem his first break on defense against USF last year.
Now, Shaquem's starting at outside linebacker, and Shaquill's starting at cornerback.