NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Shaquem Griffin strolled up to the podium over the weekend at the NFL Combine, and smiled.
"I thought I was gonna walk over here and there were gonna be like three people," Griffin told a big crowd of reporters.
Griffin ended up being the talk of Indianapolis, and beyond. In fact, during a weekend when some of college football's biggest names were in display, Griffin's story dominated this year's event.
The star linebacker from Central Florida is attempting to become the first player with one hand to be drafted in the league's modern era, according to the NFL. Griffin sure made a case for himself in front of NFL personnel.
"I'm not amazed at all," Griffin said. "A lot of people see somebody who has one hand instead of two, and they think it's different or it doesn't make sense. "Oh, he has one hand-- How can you play football?"
"Well, what if I say, "You have two hands, can you play football?" At the end of the day, you have to show what you can do. You can't set limits on what you can do, whether you have two hands or 30 hands. Show me what you can do, and we'll go from there. Don't set limits for me, because when I wake up in the morning and I brush my teeth and I look at myself in the mirror, it's only me that I see in the mirror. I'm not going to see anybody else in the mirror. That's how I live, day by day. When I look in the mirror, it's up to me to accomplish everything I want out of life."
Griffin does not have a left hand. The hand was amputated when he was four years old, the result of a rare condition known as amniotic band syndrome. But that didn't stop him from playing sports as a kid, and after a successful career at Central Florida he embarked on the NFL Combine.
And then he put on a show.
Using a prosthetic on his left arm, Griffin hammered out 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. The special prosthesis allowed him to grip the barbell, and after he put it on and had it attached to the weight, he began lifting. After each rep, the applause got louder. Griffin got the prosthetic as a college freshman, and initially he said he had trouble lifting the bar, which weighs 45 pounds.
"My goal was six [reps]," Griffin said. "I think I beat that by a lot. When I first started training, I was doing 11 reps, and usually, when you train with guys who bench a lot, they might add three or four reps. I added more than three or four to my actual max. Just being able to do that, it was amazing. Hearing the crowd and getting the juices flowing, I felt it. I didn't know I had it in me, but it came out.
"… It's amazing to see how far I came -from not being able to bench the bar to throwing up 20 reps at 225, and able to compete with the best here."
Griffin then ran an official time of 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. It was the fastest time for a linebacker going back to 2006, the first year ESPN Stats & Information began documenting 40 times at the combine.
Griffin, whose twin brother Shaquill made a pre-draft visit to the Titans last year and is a cornerback with the Seahawks, didn't initially receive an invitation to Indianapolis.
After his performance at the combine, NFL stars weighed in on social media.
"I would love to play with this guy!," Broncos linebacker Von Miller said on Twitter.
"If @Shaquemgriffin doesn't get drafted in the first two days the system is broken," Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman chimed in. "Productive and performed well at the combine. Played well against high level competition."
Griffin said he's just hoping for a shot, whether it comes at linebacker or safety.
Griffin finished the 2017 season with 74 tackles, which included 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He also recorded an interception, three pass breakups, and nine QB hurries while recovering two fumbles and forcing two fumbles.
"I hope I inspire a lot (of people)," Griffin said. "I always tell everybody, if I can inspire one, and they can inspire another and inspire a thousand later. If I keep doing what I'm doing now, I can change the minds of a lot of other people later.
"(It's) kind of cool when you have guys at that top level, the best of the best, and they come and talk to you about you motivating them and inspiring them, I feel really good hearing that from them. It motivates me to do more and keep pushing when you've got guys all over the place, the top in the country, and they're proud of me. That was an amazing feeling, and it makes you enjoy it that much more."
Titans GM Jon Robinson and new head coach Mike Vrabel make media rounds at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. (Photos: Gary Glenn)