RENTON — Shaquem Griffin’s story of perseverance — overcoming the loss of his left hand when he was 4 years old and ultimately reaching the NFL — is one of the most inspiring and unique in sports history.
The traits that got him through that were on display again — if on a much more routine level, maybe — when Griffin was left somewhat blindsided Sept. 5.
On that day, Griffin found out he was being waived by the Seahawks.
If many observers of the team considered it a possibility, Griffin says he didn’t see it coming.
“It was definitely a surprise for me,’’ Griffin said Wednesday when he talked to media members via Zoom in the wake of his performance Sunday, when he was called off the practice squad and played a key role in stopping a final drive by Dallas and preserving Seattle’s 38-31 victory.
Griffin said he had shown up for daily coronavirus testing when he got a call from the team.
“I’m thinking it’s going to be a normal day and I end up being waived,’’ Griffin said.
And while Griffin has had to ride a few rocky waves in his NFL career so far — after being the feel-good story of the 2018 draft, he started the first game he ever played for the Seahawks but has been a reserve and special-teamer ever since — the prospect of being waived and the uncertainty that comes with it was a little unsettling.
Griffin said he had a brief thought of, “This can’t be right. Something’s got to be wrong.’’
Indeed, the 2019 season had ended on an upswing, Griffin getting his first sack against Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in a divisional playoff game after seeing increasing time in a pass-rush package over the last month of the season.
But the Seahawks drafted Jordyn Brooks into an already deep linebacking corps, which left Griffin the odd man out in the cut down to 53 players.
In that moment, he relied on the person he always has: twin brother Shaquill.
Players were off that day, and the two had a trip planned with friends to a lake house a few hours away.
There, Shaquem said, he was able to finally really grasp the reality of the situation in talks with Shaquill.
“I think me being able to get away and being able to really clear my head and really understand what was going on,’’ he said.
“Having my brother was pretty big, I can admit to that. We sat down, we talked for so long just about ups and downs, pros and cons to what was going on and the situation. I think for me, my brother kind of calmed me down.’’
Still, for 24 hours, Griffin’s fate was out of his control.
Once he was waived, any team could have claimed Griffin, and he would have had to go and be away from his brother for the only time other than in 2017, when Shaquill played his rookie year with the Seahawks (Shaquem had a redshirt year as a freshman at Central Florida, while Shaquill did not).
Griffin said he had resolved to be ready “to attack’’ it if another opportunity came.
Griffin, though, wasn’t claimed, which then left another decision — he said three other teams, including Houston, reached out about signing him to their practice squad.
But Griffin said leaving was never a serious thought.
“I didn’t see myself going somewhere else and starting over because typically just because you leave doesn’t mean it’s going to be a better situation for me,’’ Griffin said.
“And I just feel like not being here is, worse come to worse, I’ve always got my brother, you know? At the end of the day, when I got him, everything’s always good, no matter if I’m playing ball or not. So I was like, ‘Man, I’m not going to leave and run away because I feel like the situation got hard and the situation is not going my way.'”
Griffin stayed on Seattle’s practice squad, saying he resolved “not to pout” and to think about “what do I need to do to better myself.’’
The Seahawks are glad he did.
With Bruce Irvin out for the year with a knee injury, the Seahawks took advantage of a new rule this year to elevate Griffin off the practice squad Saturday to fill in depth at linebacker and at rush end.
Unbeknown to the Cowboys, the Seahawks also had installed a package where Griffin roamed the middle of the field in a prevent defense, making sure Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t run or covering running backs or slot receivers.
In 11 snaps on the final drive, Griffin was credited with both a quarterback hit and a pass defense.
Each role took advantage of Griffin’s best attribute — his speed.
“Everything is in front of you, so you attack,’’ he said. “So it’s simple. You don’t have to look too much.’’
This week, coach Pete Carroll and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner each praised Griffin for his attitude in the wake of being waived.
“Anybody in his situation could have easily gotten mad or frustrated about what happened,’’ Wagner said. “But he came in, he prepared, was preparing all week. And the moment he got his opportunity, he came in and made some really, really good plays.”
Carroll said the performance earned Griffin a role on the roster again this week against Miami. For now, he remains on the practice squad, though the Seahawks did protect him this week to assure he can’t be signed by another team — Seattle can elevate him one more time this season without having to put him on the regular 53-player roster.
But once Seattle elevates him one more time, the Seahawks will have a choice to make whether to leave him on the practice squad or sign him to the 53.
Griffin says he thinks he’s proven how he’ll handle whatever the team throws his way.
“You just come back to work,’’ Griffin said. “That’s what you do. Workers work.’’