Today’s professional football world has never seen a player like Shaquem Griffin.

In 2016, he won the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year award, with 92 total tackles, 11.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and an interception. (For you non-football folks, that’s really good.)

In March 2018, he clocked the fastest 40-yard dash time for a linebacker in the NFL Scouting Combine since 2003.


And in April 2018, he lived out every aspiring football player’s dream of playing in the NFL when he was drafted as a defensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks.

The big kicker? He’s accomplished all of that one-handed. Literally.

Shaquem Griffin starred on the undefeated University of Central Florida football team last year. Photo via Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Griffin’s left hand was amputated when he was 4 years old.

He was born with a condition called amniotic band syndrome, a rare disorder that occurs in the womb, causing the amniotic sac to entangle with limbs. Before the amputation, the tissue in Griffin’s left finger was soft, “like a glove filled with jelly,” according to ESPN.

It was also painful. "Everything I touched burned," Griffin told the network.

His mother, Tangie, recalled her son attempting to cut off his fingers one night to relieve the pain. She called the next day to schedule the surgery.

Shaquem will join his twin brother, Shaquill, on the Seahawks roster. Shaquill, who is one minute older than Shaquem, was drafted last year by the Seattle team.

Missing a hand has definitely raised challenges in his life, but Griffin has never let it hold him back.

Shaquem Griffin had to work hard to get to where he is today — professional football requires intense dedication, and is definitely not for the faint of heart. His indomitable will is nothing short of infectious.

"Never let anyone tell you what you can't do," he told College Gameday in 2016. "If somebody says you can't walk, prove them wrong. Somebody tells you can't play football, prove them wrong."

Griffin's success in football offers representation to kids with disabilities.

Heroes that we feel a connection with are important. They inspire us, they give us something to shoot for, and they remind us that we are capable of great things.

Kids with disabilities don't often see themselves reflected in the highest ranks — especially in mainstream professional sports. To see a man with one hand playing on an NFL team opens up a world of possibilities for those who have been told, directly and indirectly, that they are not physically made for certain things.

Take, for example, this young cheerleader, who was born with the same condition as Shaquem Griffin and who is one of his biggest fans:

Griffin credits his family for helping him develop his strength and attitude. In an open letter to the general managers in the NFL, Griffin wrote about a coach from his childhood who told him he shouldn't play football. Griffin said it was his family who pushed him to never give up.

"I’m blessed to have thick skin. But I’m even more blessed to have a family that never let me make excuses and who raised me to never listen to anybody who told me I couldn’t do something — especially because of my hand."

Here's to Shaquem Griffen single-handedly changing the face of the NFL.  

Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy asked his Senate colleagues the questions millions of Americans have after a mass shooting.

Another school shooting. Another mass murder of innocent children. They were elementary school kids this time. There were 18 children killed—so far—this time.

The fact that I can say "this time" is enraging, but that's the routine nature of mass shootings in the U.S. It happened in Texas this time. At least three adults were killed this time. The shooter was a teenager this time.

The details this time may be different than the last time and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that. But there's one thing all mass shootings have in common. No, it's not mental illness. It's not racism or misogyny or religious extremism. It's not bad parenting or violent video games or lack of religion.

Some of those things have been factors in some shootings, but the single common denominator in every mass shooting is guns. That's not a secret. It's not controversial. It's fact. The only thing all mass shootings have in common is guns.

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Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


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