The University of Central Florida Knights claimed the Peach Bowl in Atlanta yesterday after a 34-27 win over the Auburn Tigers.
UCF, who played in Dublin at the Croke Park Classic in 2014 which infamously shoved the All-Ireland semi-final replay between Kerry and Mayo to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, capped off a remarkable year in which they completed the college’s first ever undefeated regular season, and were the only major college football team to do so this year.
While yesterday’s bowl game was a relatively high-scoring affair, it was in fact a defensive player who claimed the MVP award.
Shaquem Griffin, a UFC linebacker finished with 12 tackles, and was instrumental in the Knights’ defence.
However, Griffin, who is widely tipped to be drafted to the NFL in 2018, is no ordinary football player. The 22-year-old was born with amniotic band syndrome, which eventually led to the amputation of his left hand at the age of four.
After his mother found him trying to sever his own fingers to relieve the pain, she brought him to a doctor for the procedure, as he recalls.
“My mom took me to a room (the next day) and all I remember is them putting a mask on me. When I woke up, I had a bandage on my hand and all I wanted was to get out of there.” Quote via Times Daily.
Nonetheless, this did not put pay to his sporting career, as he progressed through the ranks and was awarded a football scholarship to UCF alongside his twin brother Shaquill.
Ever since, his reputation has grown, as he has made quite the name for himself with the Knights.
Speaking after yesterday’s game, Griffin spoke of just how much football means to him, as he looks forward.
“It’s been a long time since I had somebody or a team that brought me in as one of them. I fought so hard to get where I’m at today, and it’s kind of good where I can actually showcase my talents… Any guy can’t ask for that much. It’s hard to have a family environment like how we do.
“When I leave, that’s what I’m going to miss the most. Not just winning, but being around guys like that and having that family vibe all the time and being able to not talk about just football but just life itself.” Quotes via AL.com.
Most fans of UCF expect Griffin to be drafted to the NFL, and considering the obstacles he’s overcome to get to this point, you wouldn’t bet against him reaching the top level.