Shaquem Griffin is greatest UCF player of all time

Former UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin was not only a beast at the NFL Combine; he’s also a GOAT. As in Greatest Of All Time.

Step aside, Daunte Culpepper.

Step aside, Blake Bortles.

Step aside, Kevin Smith.

Shaquem Griffin should go down as the greatest UCF football player in the history of the school.

Hands down.

When you take everything into account — what he meant on the field, in the locker room and within the community — nobody even comes close. A young man who had his left hand amputated when he was 4 years old is showing the NFL scouts at the Ccombine what many of us already knew: This isn’t about his hands; it’s about his heart.

“When I’m out on that football field, it feels like I have five hands,” Griffin told me at the outset of last year’s historic, euphoric season.

Granted, unlike Culpepper, Bortles and Smith, Griffin doesn’t play a glamour offensive position, but greatness is about more than gaudy offensive statistics. Griffin was the greatest player on the greatest team in school history.

Without him wreaking havoc on the field and inspiring his teammates off of it, there’s no way UCF would have finished with a perfect 13-0 record last season and a self-proclaimed national championship.

“Shaquem’s drive and work ethic are motivation and inspiration for all of us,” sophomore running back Adrian Killins told me during the perfect season. “If he can do it, we can do it!”

Said former UCF coach Scott Frost: “When I got here, I didn’t know how Shaquem could function with just one hand. The amazing thing is that after about two practices, you forget that’s even an issue.”

I’m not surprised the NFL scouts and national media have fallen in love with Griffin; I’m just surprised it took them this long. He was a great player and a great story long before he showed up a the NFL Combine and ran a 4.38 40 (the fastest combine time for a linebacker in more than a decade) and bench-pressed 225 pounds 20 times while using a prosthetic on his left arm.

I wrote a column before the season wondering why the national media was essentially ignoring Griffin’s story while focusing on the mini-controversy involving backup kicker Donald De La Haye, who voluntarily left the team over a dispute about monetizing YouTube videos.

“Why is it,” I wrote, “that a kicker with two good feet who quit the team is a more intriguing national story than a star linebacker with only one good hand who is the reigning American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year?”

As it turns out, the national media and the National Football League are finally recognizing the greatness of Shaquem Griffin.

How great?

The greatest in UCF history.

Email me at mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com. Hit me up on Twitter @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on FM 96.9 and AM 740.

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