One-Handed NFL Linebacker Featured in Gillette Ad

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
September 17, 2018Sports News
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The athletic world is not short of people it calls “heroes”: usually people who break records or turn in exceptional performances.

But there are some people playing sports who have reached the highest ranks only overcoming tremendous obstacles.

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin is the latter sort of hero. Griffin, 23, was good enough to earn a starting role on an NFL team, despite having only one hand.

Linebacker Shaquem Griffin #49 of the Seattle Seahawks
Linebacker Shaquem Griffin #49 of the Seattle Seahawks defends against the Indianapolis Colts, on Aug. 9, 2018. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Shaquem Griffin had a congenital defect called “amniotic band syndrome,” which stunted the development of his left hand in the womb. The hand had to be amputated when he was 4, ESPN reported.

Shaquem and his twin brother Shaquill—who did not have any disabilities—were both gifted athletes. Their father trained them to play football from early childhood, running drills in their backyard to hone their skills.

Both boys went on the play football at the University of Central Florida.

Shaquem Griffin #18 of the UCF Knights
Shaquem Griffin #18 of the UCF Knights celebrates during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Jan. 1, 2018. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In his last season at UCF, Shaquem Griffin was named an All-American and was awarded the AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Sports Illustrated reported.

After graduation, Shaquill was signed to be a cornerback by the Seattle Seahawks. Shaquem was a late invitee to a draft combine—a test session for undrafted hopefuls—and in April 2018, got picked up by the Seahawks in the fifth round of the draft.

The twins both started the preseason-opening game between the Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts.

Shaquem racked up nine tackles, six solo, in his debut game, ESPN reported. He entered the game on the Colts’ second possession and made four tackles in his first four plays, Sports Illustrated reported.

Shaquem also played against the Denver Broncos, where his performance impressed Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall.

“I watched him,” Marshall told Sports Illustrated. “I can’t even imagine … it’s tough because you’ve got to get off blocks. Sometimes you have to grab with two hands. To be able to play at this level with one hand is special. The fact that he’s out there is just amazing. He’s got a lot to learn, but he’s athletic enough to be good.”

After the game, ESPN reported, Shaquem Griffin was asked if he was amazed at how far he had come. “Nah, man—I just played football,” he replied.

“Me just being here, it’s amazing and it’s a blessing for me to be here. I give all thanks to God. But I’m just here to play football.”

Perfect Story for Advertisers

Nike realized that Shaquem’s story epitomized their “Just Do it” slogan,” and featured the linebacker in an ad with the text, “Who would ever think a kid like me would go pro? Me.”

Griffin also signed endorsement deals with Bose, JCPenney, and Eleven James, and did a Twitter Q&A sponsored by American Family Insurance, according to ESPN.

But it might be Gillette, the Massachusetts-based maker of razor blades, which is giving Griffin his greatest commercial exposure.

The company has been using the slogan “The best a man can get” for 30 years. The company wanted to update the campaign—and decided to start by telling the story of Shaquem Griffin.

The ad, titled “Your Best Never Comes Easy” shows father Terry Griffin teaching his sons to play football—and to shave (it is a commercial, after all).

According to AdAge, the TV commercial will be followed by a long-form online-only video combined with a social media, PR, and promotional campaign. Pankaj Bhalla, the brand director for Grey, New York, the firm behind the ad campaign, told AdAge: “We were asking ourselves what would be the best way to modernize and redefine ‘The Best a Man Can Get?'”

He then said, “Once we started to learn about the Griffin family, and what they’ve gone through …we knew the story was compelling.”

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