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Griffin Brothers’ Solidarity Leads to the First One-Handed NFL Player

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“Not without my brother” could be the motto of Seattle Seahawks defensive standouts Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin. The twin brothers made a pact at the age of 8 to stick together no matter what. Their loyalty resulted in the rarity of twin players on the same NFL team and the first one-handed NFL player ever. Sharyn Alfonsi profiles the remarkable siblings for the next edition of 60 MINUTES, Sunday, Nov. 11 (7:30-8:30 PM, ET/7:00-8:00 PM, PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Growing up, the twins were athletic, competitive and identical – except for one difference: Shaquem was born with a deformed left hand that had to be amputated at the age of 4. Shaquem had to work harder. The twins’ father, Terry, helped train his sons with intensity and some tough love. Asked how his young son could catch a football, Terry replies, “When you get hit in the face, five, six, seven times…You start catching…He wanted it. You got to want it.”

His sons grew into top-notch college prospects, but only Shaquill was offered scholarships to elite programs. Even though Shaquem told him to go, Shaquill would not break the pact. When the University of Miami, Shaquill’s dream team, came calling, he laid down the law in his interview. “‘If you don’t offer my brother, don’t offer me, Cause I’m not leaving him,” he recalls telling the school official. Miami said no.

The University of Central Florida said yes to the twin scholarships, but while Shaquill starred on the field, Shaquem festered on the bench. Shaquem almost quit, says Shaquill. “You get to a point where he said, ‘I was leaving,’ and I was going to leave too. And then I think he ended up staying because he knew how much it would affect me. I said, ‘If you leave, then you’re just breakin’ everything we promised to each other.’”

After college, Shaquill began playing for the Seattle Seahawks. Shaquem kept working hard. Not being selected in the early rounds of the NFL draft was part of a pattern he experienced all his life. “People don’t want to take a chance. And I just feel like that’s what it was,” says Shaquem. “It’s like that in every single level I’ve been in, from little league to high school and college.”

Shaquill lobbied his team to consider his brother. In the end, it wasn’t a hard decision for the Seahawks. Shaquem attended the showcase for NFL prospects and was a star performer in all the skills the event tests for, especially speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in the fastest time a linebacker had ever clocked in the combine. It was the same time his cornerback brother had run the year before. Seattle drafted him, and he now plays linebacker and on special teams – as always, with brother Shaquill not far away.

Shaquem considers the absence of a left hand as an advantage. “I thought about it. I was like, ‘If I had two hands, I don’t think I’d be good as I am now.’ I think me having one hand made me work even harder than many other people.”

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Kevin Tedesco



Kevin Tedesco