ORLANDO, Fla. — We had a chance to sit down with reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year Shaquem Griffin in Rhode Island earlier this week, and get to know the man responsible for a conference high eleven sacks last season.
He touched on plans to write an inspirational book one day, what the definition of difficult means from his point of view, and how he wants to change the world around him.
What has it been like to go from spending your time on the sideline to not only starting, but becoming one of the faces of the program? It sounds like something straight out of a dream!
It feels amazing, to be honest. Knowing that you came from so much is just… it gives you that feeling like, I’m not done yet. You know, [it was a situation where] you have so much negativity around you that kept trying to bring you down, and now you have the opportunity to just better yourself and better your team and better others around you. There’s just no way I could stop here, and that’s what gives me the motivation to keep going even harder.
Being that I wasn’t playing, and then Coach Frost came and gave me the opportunity to showcase my talents, it’s just, I feel good about it. I’ve got to take full advantage of the opportunity he gave me. There’s no reason for me to stop now. I’ve been going away for so long, it’s time for me to go even harder than I did last year.
How has finally getting your shot and playing at such a high level changed your expectations of what life might be like after college football for you?
Things change, obviously, and having the season that I did, being able to look outside in and see the publicity and everything that I’m getting… things have changed, but my whole focus wasn’t about the NFL. It’s still not going to be that.
My whole thing is to just do what I can, staying humble and being able to be that motivation for others. My whole thing was, even after football I want to help motivate others. I’m planning on creating a book after football, I’m planning on being able to travel around the country and being able to help not only kids, but men and women around the country. To help them have a sense of accomplishment. Even when you think you’re at your lowest, the only thing you can do is go up.
So down the line we should look out for the Shaquem Griffin, the motivational speaker?
You mentioned writing a book there, what would it focus on?
Just to write about my life. It’s a story that’s out, but it’s only a piece of it. There’s so much to learn about me and my family, and then everything we’ve been through. Even when somebody feels like, man I don’t think this is it for me, you never know until you put everything you’ve got into it.
You’ve got some people who work hard but if it’s too hard, they stop. The thing is, it’s not hard, it’s just a challenge. You can’t get those two confused. When somebody says, oh it’s hard, it’s not hard. You can do it! Its just a challenge and you’ve just got to want to.
It’s all a “want to” [mentality], and that’s going to be a big thing when it comes to me. I’ve stopped calling things hard. It’s just a challenge, another wall you’ve got to jump, you’ve just got to do it. You might need a ladder to get over it, find a ladder and just use it.
I think you said it perfectly, your story is out there – national outlets have picked it up, locally you’ve been all over. Is there any part of that you can tell us right now that we don’t know?
When it comes to a story such as mine, there’s always something that the person is going to hold onto until it’s time to reveal everything. Like I said, after football I just feel like I’m going to get to a point where I’m comfortable enough just to let everything go. I said enough when it comes to my story, because even the parts that I did say… it’s not easy, it’s not easy.
I still want everybody to understand who I am, but when it comes to writing that book, I want everyone to know Shaquem Alphonso Griffin. I gave Shaquem Griffin, but I want to give Shaquem Alphonso Griffin to everybody. You know, over the years, after football, I want to put that story out for people to really be like, “You know what? I’ve got to stop making excuses. I’ve got to stop holding myself back.”
Nobody else, even if somebody else is telling you that you can’t do something, it’s not that person telling you that you can’t do it holding you back, its you. You’ve got to look in the mirror and say – “You know what? I’ve got to look in the mirror and get things done today.”
There’s not going to be a person behind you who says – “I bet you’re not going to work, or you’re not going to work today!” It’s up to you if you want to if you want to go to work, if you want to get anything accomplished. Everybody, not just in our country, but everybody in the world has to understand that.
Is this the longest you’ve ever been away from your brother?
Yeah, and it’s only going to get longer!
How are you handling that? This is the new normal, right?
I mean, its another thing you’ve got to just get through, you know. Like I said, it’s not hard, it’s just a challenge.
Have you had any strange “twin” moments since he’s switched coasts?
We actually put on the same clothes, once. We were on facetime together and we had the same Adidas shirt on. I mean it may be a coincidence, but it just doesn’t work like that; when you’re on facetime with your brother and you’ve got the same clothes on. You can think about it like, “Man I think it’s a twin thing,” or you can think about it like, “Oh that’s a coincidence,” – but it was pretty funny.
What are you hearing from him out there? I read he might have a decent chance to start?
He’s a person that… me, I can talk, but he’s a person that tries to keep everything confidential. Right now he was saying that he’s running with the ones and getting a better feel of everything, having those guys like Sherman [helps]. Just watching Sherman call him and talk to him, mind you, I’m still kind of star struck, just the fact that he’s on the phone with him? That’s crazy!
They text back and forth about hanging out, or if you need any questions [answered] – because when the season starts it moves so fast that you want to learn as much as you can now and just looking at that, I want to be that type of guy for the young guys who come in here for us.
So not only am I watching him go through the process, I’m learning as I go.