Agent Buddy Baker is certain that his client, Shaquem Griffin, the University of Central Florida linebacker who raised eyebrows at the NFL combine despite only having one hand, will be drafted by an NFL team, even though it’s never happened before.
“Yes,” Baker said in a phone interview last week. “He’s getting drafted, and he’s going to get drafted fairly high in the draft.”
Griffin drew worldwide attention last week after he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, the fastest of any linebacker in 15 years at the NFL combine. Before that, Griffin made headlines when he put up 20 repetitions on the bench press using a prosthetic left hand. Griffin had his left hand amputated at age 4 because of a congenital condition.
No NFL club has drafted a player with one hand.
“This is a case of first impression in the National Football League,” Baker said.
Griffin was a late combine invite. Prior to that, Griffin received a late invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he ended up winning practice player of the week.
“He’s been questioned and doubted every stage of his life and his football career,” Baker said. But that’s not why Baker is sure Griffin will be drafted.
In college, Griffin led UCF to a 13-0 season, and in the Peach Bowl against Auburn he won the defensive MVP honor. He’s a two-time American Athletic Conference first-team selection and was the 2016 AAC defensive player of the year.
“They say the tape doesn’t lie,” Baker said. “When you put on tape, you don’t see any sort of — you don’t see his situation having any adverse effect on his play on the field. When you put on the tape, he is one of the more dominant, explosive players that you will watch in college football.”
Baker has been an agent since 2000 and is president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Exclusive Sports Group LLC, which represents about 30 NFL players, including Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin. Baker also reps Shaquem’s twin brother, cornerback Shaquill Griffin, a third-round pick of the Seahawks last year.
The brothers, who played together at UCF, are close and Shaquill gave Baker an endorsement when Shaquem was looking for an agent.
“I don’t look at him as a special situation because I’ve been around him so much,” Baker said of Shaquem.
Baker expected Shaquem to run fast at the combine, but not that fast. His combine performance, which also included an impressive 1.55 10-yard split, took Baker’s breath away.
“It is, with all my years in the business, one of the most inspirational, if not the most inspirational thing I’ve ever been around,” Baker said. “The most amazing thing isn’t how he accomplished this — because I’ve kind of moved beyond that. What to me, as a parent, as an agent to a lot of players, is amazing is how he conducts his business. How no matter what level of success he has, it really doesn’t change his perspective on life or the process.”
NFL team personnel told Baker how impressed they were with Shaquem’s personality and levelheadedness, which is another reason Baker is sure he’ll be drafted.
Not surprisingly, Baker was sifting through inquiries from companies and brands that wanted to be associated with his client last week. “We’ve had no shortage of calls — from all industries,” Baker said, though he wouldn’t reveal the companies or deals he was considering.
One thing certain, Baker said, is that he will only align Shaquem with brands that fit his personality. Shaquem is aware of his impact on people around the world trying to overcome different difficulties, Baker said. He doesn’t want to let them down.
“Shaquem’s goal is to be a longtime and successful NFL player,” Baker said. “He’s smart enough to understand that when that happens — and it will — he will have a platform for himself where he will really be able to make an impact and a difference in society and really transform sports.”