The NFL Scouting Combine is a pretty weird event. Every year, top rookie prospects navigate a gauntlet of physical and mental challenges, many of which have only a tenuous connection to the actual game of football. It is by no means required viewing (unless, of course, you love watching young men sprint around mini traffic cones), but every so often it gives us something special.
Behold: Shaquem Griffin.
Griffin was a star linebacker for the University of Central Florida, a team that went undefeated last season, but his superlative performance at the combine has still taken almost everyone by surprise. For example, Griffin bench-pressed 225 pounds 20 times. That’s a great showing, but it’s staggeringly impressive when you consider he did it with only one hand gripping the bar.
Griffin was born with a condition that prevented the development of his left hand. It was so painful that, at the age of 4, he grabbed a kitchen knife and told his parents he was going to cut his own fingers off. The hand was medically amputated shortly thereafter, though its absence hasn’t hindered his football career.
While the bench press was an amazing show of strength, Griffin’s performance at the 40-yard dash on Sunday really turned some heads.
A 4.38-second 40-yard dash is insanely quick for a wide receiver, let alone a 6-foot, 227-pound linebacker. Were this the Bronze Age, we would make Griffin our king and never stop throwing him parades. However, given that this is 2018, NFL.com projects him as a 5th or 6th-round draft pick. (Though, judging by football executives’ reactions to his performance, I’d wager he goes higher.)
Of course, the combine isn’t all awe-inspiring feats of athletic super-humanism. Highly touted offensive lineman Orlando Brown ran a 5.86-second 40-yard dash, the fifth-slowest time since 2003.
What does this sluggish sprint mean for Brown’s NFL career? To find out, simply analyze his professional performances over the next 10 years. Next to running in a straight line while wearing tight shorts, that’s the best way to make an assessment.
One more thing
You depend on Slate for sharp, distinctive coverage of the latest developments in politics and culture. Now we need to ask for your support.
Our work is more urgent than ever and is reaching more readers—but online advertising revenues don’t fully cover our costs, and we don’t have print subscribers to help keep us afloat. So we need your help. If you think Slate’s work matters, become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.Join Slate Plus