NFL draft: Shaquem Griffin, the linebacker without a hand, will join twin brother in Seattle
As heartwarming stories go, Seattle stole the show.
The Seahawks drafted Shaquem Griffin in the fifth round Saturday, reuniting the Central Florida linebacker with his twin brother, Shaquill, a Seahawks defensive back selected in the third round last year.
But that’s not the biggest part of the story. As a result of a rare condition in the womb, Shaquem lost his left hand at age 4. Despite that, he has remarkable skills at rushing the passer, dropping into coverage and defending the run.
“I don’t want to be a guy who’s just a feel-good story,” said Griffin, whose 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine was the fastest ever recorded for a linebacker. “I want to be a football player, and a good one at that.”
Griffin was the only player in the green room at AT&T Stadium on Saturday, but he had no complaints about the wait. He was emotional and beyond excited about the chance to join his brother in Seattle. The two were teammates in college.
Shaquem had headed for a bathroom break when the call came from the Seahawks. His brother chased him down.
“My brother kind of tackled me with my cellphone saying, ‘Answer it! Answer it!’” Shaquem said. “I looked, and that’s when tears just started pouring down. I was in the restroom and my brother busted in and tackled me.”
Asked what the Seahawks are getting, Shaquem said: “They are getting a diamond in the rough. I’m not going to lie to you, just like they got with my brother.”
Miami got a fourth-round pick from Philadelphia as part of the trade that sent running back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles last season. With that No. 131 selection, the Dolphins took another running back, Kalen Ballage from Arizona State, who made headlines in 2016 when he scored eight touchdowns in a win over Texas Tech.
Yes, eight touchdowns.
In that 68-55 victory at home, Ballage rushed for seven touchdowns on 13 attempts, gaining 137 yards. He also caught a touchdown pass. That rushing total included a 75-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that gave him a tie for the NCAA record with Howard Griffith, who scored eight touchdowns for Illinois in a 1990 victory over Southern Illinois.
It’s a lot to ask Dalton Schultz, to step into the considerable cleats of Dallas Cowboys star Jason Witten, who looks to be retiring and heading for the “Monday Night Football” booth. But Schultz, a tight end from Stanford drafted in the fourth round, has something of a legacy to stand on. A string of Stanford tight ends have made their mark in the NFL recently, with Zach Ertz in Philadelphia, Coby Fleener in New Orleans and Levine Toilolo in Detroit.
Huge in Jersey
Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick of the New York Giants, already has broken the record for the best-selling jersey in NFL draft history, according to a report by ESPN. The star running back from Penn State has put up unprecedented (but undisclosed) sales numbers on Fanatics, which runs the official NFL online shop.
Clearly, that should not be interpreted as an indicator of future success. The previous record-holder was Johnny Manziel, a first-round pick by Cleveland in 2014.
What’s in a name?
Atlanta drafted Southern Mississippi running back Romerius Dejaunte Smith in the fourth round, although that’s only the name on his birth certificate. He goes by Ito Smith, a nickname that stuck because his mother thought her baby resembled a fixture in the so-called “Trial of the Century.”
In an interview with MississippiToday.com last summer, Smith explained his nickname.
“I had just been born, and the O.J. Simpson murder trial was on TV every day,” said Smith, who was born Sept. 11, 1995. “My 5-year-old cousin always watched it with my grandmother, and when she came to the hospital to meet me, she saw my chubby cheeks and said, ‘Hey, he looks just like Judge Ito.’ ”
As for the resemblance? The jury’s still out.
The Eagles took a Philadelphia flier in the seventh round on someone who has never played football. They used the 233rd pick on a 6-foot-8, 346-pound rugby player from Australia, Jordan Mailata, projecting him as an offensive tackle.
Mailata, named in honor of Michael Jordan, has been working with the same coach who tutored German receiver Mortiz Bohringer, a sixth-round pick of the Vikings in 2016. Bohringer is out of the league, so the Eagles are hoping this experiment produces better results.
Mailata’s goals are lofty but at least somewhat realistic. He aims to play in a regular-season game within the next three years.
The last pick in the draft — the spot nicknamed Mr. Irrelevant — was Southern Methodist receiver Trey Quinn. He was selected 256th by Washington, although the pick was traded from Atlanta to the Rams to the Redskins.
Quinn, who transferred to SMU from Louisiana State, set the national career record with 6,566 yards receiving in high school — nearly four miles — and threw a no-hitter in the opening round of the 2008 Little League World Series.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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