The Seattle Seahawks' newest linebacker is changing what professional football looks like.

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.  

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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