One-handed NFL prospect puts on stunning display at combine bench press


When it comes to the NFL combine, the bench press usually doesn’t get that much attention. Coaches and executives prefer to see what a player can do on the actual field either through speed/agility tests or on-the-field drills.

But during Shaquem Griffin’s bench press drill, there was more interest than normal, and not just because Griffin is a defensive back/linebacker tweener.

The University of Central Florida All-American has just one hand due to being born with a congenital disorder that led to an amputation when he was just 4 years old. Griffin could have easily skipped the bench press and just focused on his interviews and on-the-field drills, but he instead donned a prosthetic device and blew away the room with his performance.

As soon as Griffin started his first rep, the room vocally rooted for him, which, for the combine, is rare. One usually only hears the grunts of the player and the voice of the spotter throughout the drill, but some people in attendance broke protocol in order to cheer on Griffin.

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He successfully completed 20 reps, which was more than players like Calais Campbell, Anthony Barr and Jason Pierre-Paul, all of whom have made the Pro Bowl multiple times.

Shaquem then received a shout-out from his twin brother, Shaquill Griffin, who also played at UCF and now is a cornerback with the Seahawks.

After his impressive performance, Shaquem talked about how he had to get comfortable with using the prosthetic.

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“I mean, it’s amazing,” he said, according to “Obviously a lot of people didn’t feel like I was going to do the bench press and for me to be able to put a prosthetic on — I remember when I first started using the prosthetic, I had just the bar and I was shaking all over the place when I first got to UCF and being able to put up numbers like that, with good competition with everybody, it’s amazing because it just goes to show how much hard work I put in to get this level.”

There was also a bit of pride in Griffin’s performance after the NFL prospect heard a GM say he didn’t care if Griffin did five bench press reps. Griffin used that comment as motivation.

“People didn’t think I would be able to do it and him just saying five? I mean five for me is just warming up so it felt good to throw up 20 and show him that I can do way more than five,” Griffin said.

People keep doubting Griffin, but he keeps proving them wrong. He obviously doesn’t wear the prosthetic when he plays, but that hasn’t limited his production on the field.

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Griffin recorded three interceptions and 18.5 sacks during his college career, en route to becoming the 2016 AAC Defensive Player of the Year.

Some organizations will never look past the fact that he has one hand, but he only needs one team to take a chance. Griffin is projected to be a late-round draft pick.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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