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UCF LB Shaquem Griffin finds motivation, blueprint in Von Miller's path to NFL

Posted Jan 23, 2018

The former American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year plays with just one hand, but he's never let that stop him. Miller has provided some of that motivation.

MOBILE, Ala. — As Shaquem Griffin sat at a Senior Bowl Media Day table on Tuesday afternoon, Von Miller was likely hundreds of miles away from Mobile, Alabama.

Though the All-Pro’s offseason has been a far cry from the whirlwind tour he took after Super Bowl 50, Miller still took in a Nuggets game on Friday and spent time at a Texas ranch in the days before. As his offseason itinerary continues, Mobile seems an unlikely destination.

But to Griffin, the draft-eligible linebacker from Central Florida, Miller couldn’t have felt closer.

Senior Bowl practices began Tuesday, and as Griffin aims to transition to the NFL, he’ll do so with his focus on the perennial Pro Bowler.

“Von Miller,” said Griffin, when asked which current NFL player he tries to emulate. "Watching his pass rush is unbelievable. The way he uses his speed, the way he uses his power, it reminds me of myself because he just has an amazing first step. He’s very explosive, and he’s light on his feet. I mean, he’s got cleats with feathers on [them].

“Everything he does, I’d love to take it upon myself to use it. When you get O-linemen guessing about what you’re going to do, then you’re already winning before you even start.”

Griffin’s path will certainly be different than most. The former American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year lost his left hand to amputation when he was 4 years old, and he’s battled the stigma and the ensuing questions in the years since.

But that necessary procedure, begot by a pre-natal condition called Amniotic Band Syndrome, hasn’t slowed Griffin’s trek toward the NFL.

“As long as I’m going fast and making plays, they’re going to forget how many hands I have,” Griffin said Monday at the Senior Bowl’s introductory press conference.

That’s where Miller provides perhaps even more motivation.

The Super Bowl 50 MVP has battled his fair share of limiting factors that could’ve prevented him from making an impact on the football field.

As a child, Miller’s less-than-perfect eyesight left him at risk to both bullies at school and to the high-speed action on the football field.

“Without my glasses, I wouldn't be able to drive,” Miller told ESPN in 2016. “I can see people and shapes, but if I don't have my glasses on and I'm on a football field, it's dangerous.”

Miller also struggled with asthma — to the point that it could’ve derailed an All-Pro career before it even began. In the same interview with ESPN, Miller explained how he dealt with the condition.

“My mom used to hook the generator up to the Suburban and roll the extension cord all the way down to the football field and have my nebulizer hooked up to that so I could take treatments in between offense and defense,” Miller said.

Were it not for Miller’s charitable efforts for Von’s Vision, neither one of those ailments would be well known to Broncos fans. And neither has been close to a true limiting factor in his career development.

As Griffin addressed the media ahead of a week of practices and meetings that could start him off on a similar path, he recognized Miller’s story as one that could provide reassurance.

“Von was a guy I always looked up to, and just to see things he can do [is inspiring],” Griffin said. “I want anybody here to go up to Von Miller and say that he can’t do something. Because the look that he’ll give you will be even scarier. He’s a guy that will literally get things done because it’s a 'want to.' Not the fact that somebody tells him he can do something, not the fact that they told him he can’t do something. [It’s] because it’s what he wants to do.

“No matter how hard it is, no matter who you’re going against, that’s a guy who brings the motor, that’s the guy who brings the passion. I think he enjoys it while he’s doing it.

Though Griffin informally met with Broncos representatives ahead of the formal interviews that began Tuesday afternoon, he has yet to speak with the outside linebacker who has 83.5 career sacks to his name.

“No, I have not,” Griffin said.

“But maybe one day.”