One of the most inspiring players in the NFL made his Seattle Seahawks debut Thursday night, recording a game-high nine tackles, including one for loss.
Shaquem Griffin, the Seahawks' fifth-round linebacker and NFL's first one-handed player, quickly showed that the speed and toughness that helped him become 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and an all-conference performer last season at Central Florida despite having his hand amputated at age 3 because of a rare birth defect. It turns out that speed appears to be translating just fine to the NFL preseason stage.
Griffin, who debuted late in the first quarter of the Seahawks' loss to the Colts, was in four tackles on his first four snaps after entering the game. He brought down Robert Turbin after runs of 2, 4 and 1 yard and tackled Colts TE Jack Doyle following a first-down reception.
Later, Griffin knifed into the backfield untouched to drop RB Christine Michael for a 2-yard loss. Griffin finished his debut with six solo tackles and three assisted. He appeared to be playing mostly as an off-the-ball linebacker, though Griffin should earn chances to rush the passer on a defense that has significant questions in that department following an offseason of significant turnover.
"He was all over the field,” Seahawks head coach Pete Caroll told reporters afterward, echoing the sentiments he's shared on Griffin thus far in camp. “He was running and hitting just like he’s been looking in practice. [I'm] very encouraged.
"He is a wonderful kid and he’s been really busting his tail to figure it out and how to play in our scheme and all that. I can’t tell you much until I see the film other than he was very active, like we would hope.”
There are plenty of good stories across the league, even if many of them are overshadowed for the wrong reasons, but none is more worth rooting for than Griffin's.