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St. Pete native, UCF star Shaquill Griffin’s story enters next chapter

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The Seattle Seahawks’ choice of Central Florida defensive back Shaquill Griffin in the third round of the NFL Draft wasn’t earth shattering, but it is a good story. From a relative unknown to a third-round selection, the Griffin story has several components.

It doesn’t hurt that he is an outstanding football player as well.

Not many knew all that much about the graduate of St. Petersburg’s Lakewood High. Coming out of high school, he made a vow that he would not go to a school that did not also offer a scholarship to his twin brother, Shaquem, who had lost his left hand due to a medical issue at age four.

UCF offered scholarships to both and the program greatly benefitted from that decision. Despite solid numbers in 2016, Shaquill was not named the American Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. That honor went to Shaquem.

Shaquill had 15 passes broken up during the season and four interceptions. One was returned for a touchdown against Tulane. The 19 passes defended ranked in the top 10 among all defenders in major college football.

Despite his statistics and desire, the interest did not seem to be there. He was not invited to the Senior Bowl. According to NFL.com, Shaquill was not approached by any scout until late January of this year.

Then came the NFL Scouting Combine.

He wasn’t among the early invitees to the exclusive showcase of college football’s brightest prospects. But he did get there and he did not disappoint.

Only three defensive backs ran a faster time than Shaquill in the 40-yard dash. He was also listed as a “top performer” in the broad jump and vertical jump.

He now had the attention of NFL player personnel executives. The Seahawks indicated that despite having the likes of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in their defensive backfield, the selection of Griffin addressed defensive needs. That means depth.

“Right now, what I know about the Seahawks is just that I’m on that press coverage that I can use all my tools and stuff, just to help out the team,” Griffin said on the Seahawks press call following his selection. “I’m just trying to help them win some ball games this year, get a chance to learn as much as possible and contribute this year.”

Shaquill was not the only one in the family who was thrilled.

“I was so excited just to get the call,” he said. “I could see it in my mom’s face. She started to cry, and my auntie and my grandma. I’ve just been dreaming of this moment and it’s finally coming true.”

He said Shaquem is “enjoying it right now. He’s banging on the door just to get in the room to talk to me.”

If all goes well, Shaquill will be banging into running backs and wide receivers in the Pacific Northwest for some time to come.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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