ORLANDO, Fla. – University of Central Florida Knights’ linebacker Shaquem Griffin was honored for his achievements as a student-athlete Wednesday when he was selected for the 2017 Senior CLASS Award.
The name is short for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School and is given to the college player who is a total student-athlete “and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities,” according to a news release on SeniorClassaward.com.
As a senior at UCF, Griffin earned All America honors before completing an undefeated season with the Knights. He was named the AAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.
Griffin was also named a 2018 Rare Disease Champion Award finalist by Uplifting Athletes. Born with a rare disorder in his left hand, Griffin endured years of pain before his hand was surgically removed, according to Uplifting Athletes.
Despite playing with one hand, Griffin has never considered that a disability.
“You’re not disabled unless you say ‘I’m disabled,’” said Griffin. “I’d really like to be able to keep sharing my story with people. If I keep doing what I’m doing, it’s going to create a better future for someone else. Maybe I can help this one kid, who can help another kid and so on. Eventually, we may be able to reach thousands of kids.”
Senior CLASS award officials said they selected Griffin, who is a double major in human communication and interdisciplinary studies with a minor in sociology, because of his dedication on and off the field.
Griffin is involved in nonprofits, including the Boys & Girls Club of America and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and frequently speaks at high schools and community events to inspire youths.
“Not only has he excelled in each of the four Senior CLASS Award categories, he’s done so bearing a challenge that none of his peers have had to face,” Executive Director for the Senior CLASS Award Erik Miner said. “He’s an exceptional young man who truly deserves the Senior CLASS Award. Our congratulations to Shaquem, his family and to UCF.”
UCF Head Coach Scott Frost said he couldn’t think of someone more deserving for the award.
“He’s an inspiration to so many people, and he should serve as a lesson for many others,” Scott said. “Perseverance, hard work and belief in yourself can take you a long way, and those characteristics are going to allow Shaquem to continue being successful in life.”
Griffin is the second athlete to receive the award since 2012.
'Show the world your worth'
News 6 Sports Director Jamie Seh spoke with Griffin before he left for the Peach Bowl this month about his motivation.
He said being able to help his teammates, enjoying what he does and seeing the extra work the players did off the field made him “enjoy every moment” of his senior season.
[Watch Jamie Seh's interview with Griffin below | Mobile app users click here to view]
“I know we were going to have a good season, but a season like this?” Griffin said. "I mean, it's wild. We making history. Who would have thought, you know, doing little things like sleeping in the wings, watching extra film, doing extra work it would pay off like this?”
Griffin told News 6 he hopes his legacy inspires future student-athletes.
“No matter what the circumstances are, no matter how long it takes to get on the field, just know when you have the opportunity to play show the world your worth,” Griffin said.
Griffin’s twin brother, Shaquill Griffin, who also played for UCF, is a cornerback in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks. Shaquem Griffin has expressed plans to follow his brother into the NFL.
The Knights will face Auburn on Monday in the Atlanta Peach Bowl.