Every year at the NFL Combine, draft experts become inebriated with certain prospects that we hear about ad nauseum. This year, it’s Penn State’s phenomenal running back Saquon Barkley, along with a deep quarterback class consisting of Oklahoma‘s Baker Mayfield, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, USC’s Sam Darnold and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
Not only have they been fixtures on college football telecasts over the last few years, but they’ve also been dominating the mock NFL Draft discussions for weeks now.
But the allure of the combine, at least to me, is not about the A-Listers. It’s more about prospects that have been grinding outside of the national spotlight, players that the casual fan might not be aware of who have put together some impressive college resumes in preparation for their shot at that pro paycheck.
At this year’s combine, the two ballers that best reflect that underdog narrative hail from rising programs in the state of Florida that have the usual suspects like Florida, Miami and Florida State taking notice.
Follow JBP on IG: https://www.instagram.com/justbombsproductions/ ( click show more ) Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ScottTakade Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/scotttakade/ Follow JBP on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JBP_Official Like JBP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Just-Bombs-Productions-255863801590167/ UCF LB Shaquem Griffin Senior 6’1 223 lbs Check out my backup channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT48sLMEjRc40Ts-cm70E3w Intro song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nIJRyTTCNM (All rights go to The University of Central Florida, ESPN, xosdigitalsports, UCF Athletics, the American Athletic Conference, AAC Network, Universal Music Group, the NCAA & it’s broadcasters.
When Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin showed up at combine, he walked in under a cloud of skepticism. Despite being the 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, a ferocious 12-tackle, 1.5-sack game in the 34-27 win over No.7 Auburn in the Peach Bowl, in which one of his QB pressures led to a critical late-game interception, and, by all accounts, an awesome showing at the Senior Bowl, he wasn’t even on the initial lists of Combine invite.
He was invited after that Senior Bowl performance, during which he was named the Practice Player of the Week in Mobile leading up to the game.
Despite his stellar play, and his college film which is undeniable in its ferocious excellence,the fact that he doesn’t have a left hand led some to erroneously write him off as a legit pro prospect that could make an impact on the next level.
But as the saying goes, haters gonna hate, but ballers gonna ball!
Griffin’s hand was amputated when he was four years old because a rare condition called amniotic band syndrome, which prevented his fingers from fully developing while causing severe physical pain.
This weekend, he banged out 20 reps in the 225-pound bench press with a prosthetic device clamped to the weight bar, then went out and ran the faster 40-yard dash ever recorded by a linebacker at the Combine. His 4.38 was faster than previous performances by fleet-footed NFL studs Ezekiel Elliot, Julio Jones and Richard Sherman.
List of every defensive player at the NFL combine to weigh at least 225 lbs and run a sub 4.4 40 (since at least 2000): Shaquem Griffin /end list Griffin is 227 lbs & ran an unofficial 4.38 in the 40.
Shaquem’s twin brother Shaquill, a defensive back who was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round of the 2017 draft, ran the exact same time at last year’s combine. But Shaquem outweighs him by over 30 pounds.
Griffin had 44 solo tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles in 2017. the year prior, when he was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, accumulated 57 solo tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles.
As Biggie had once said, “He’s been in this game for years!”
And it’s good to finally see him getting some national shine.
“So many people are going to have doubts about what I can do, and obviously, it started at the bench press,” Griffin said Saturday, a few hours after he knocked it out the park with his bench press. “Some people think I can do three, some people think I can do five, some people didn’t think I could do the bench press. But I did it and competed with everybody else and did 20, and that’s just one step closer to everything I need to accomplish. There’s going to be a lot more doubters saying what I can’t do, and I’m ready to prove them wrong.”
Another lesser known player, despite being one of the most remarkable college quarterbacks in recent memory, that’s worth rooting for is Quenton Flowers, the quarterback from the University of South Florida that spurned scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida and Texas, among others after throwing for 6,042 yards and rushing for 2,002 over his prep career at Miami Jackson Senior High.
Follow JBP on IG: https://www.instagram.com/justbombsproductions/ ( click show more ) Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ScottTakade Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/scotttakade/ Follow JBP on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JBP_Official Like JBP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Just-Bombs-Productions-255863801590167/ USF QB Quinton Flowers Senior 6’0 215 lbs Check out my backup channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT48sLMEjRc40Ts-cm70E3w Intro song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nIJRyTTCNM (All rights go to The University of South Florida, ESPN, xosdigitalsports, USF Athletics, the American Athletic Conference, AAC Network, Universal Music Group, the NCAA & it’s broadcasters.
Flowers hails from Liberty City, 10 miles northeast of South Beach and a world apart from the glitz and glamour associated with the wealthy bubble of Miami’s elite.
Liberty City is the neighborhood that catapulted the likes of Antonio Brown and Elvis Dumervil, among others, toward stardom in the National Football League.
In 2002, Flowers’ father was shot in the neck and killed, the unintended victim of a drive-by shooting. Minutes prior, the seven-year-old boy had been sitting on his family’s front porch, on his father’s lap, watching a Miami Dolphins game.
What if I was sitting on my dads lap playing with him? Flowers once told Sports Illustrated. That couldve been me.
In 2012, when he first began to star on the gridiron in high school, his mother succumbed to cancer. A network of siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins became his surrogate parents. When mulling his scholarship offers, he wanted to play QB. Alabama wanted him as a wide receiver. South Carolina wanted him as a defensive back. Miami wanted him as a running back.
But the University of South Florida and Flowers had the same vision of what his college position should be: the position he played all of his life. Nine games into his freshman year, he found himself under center taking valuable snaps and being groomed for the eventual starter’s job. But the excitement soon turned to despair when an older brother was shot in the head and killed back in Miami.
I lost it all, Flowers told Sports Illustrated. As I was walking to my room, I started crying. He always told me I was going to be the one to go to college, try to make something out of myself. I was so hurt. Thats the third person in my life.
Flowers, indeed, used his college opportunity to make something of himself. As a sophomore, he started every game for the Bulls, throwing for 2,296 yards and a school record 22 passing touchdowns while also rushing for 991 yards and 12 more scores. His junior year in 2016, he was the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, rushing for 1,530 yards and 18 touchdowns passing for 2,812 yards and 24 additional scores.
This past season, he solidified his status as one of the most electric dual-threat signal callers in college football history by passing for 2,911 yards and 20 TD’s while accounting for 1,078 yards and 11 additional TD’s as a rusher.
BULLSTRONG: Inside USF Football is a weekly television program that provides an inside look at the coaches, players, and staff throughout the 2017 football season. #BULLSTRONG: Inside USF Football airs on Thursdays after game weeks at 11:00 am on FOX Sports.
At this year’s combine in Indianapolis, he participated in quarterback, running back and punt return drills. But he hopes to get a shot under center, first and foremost.
Flowers finished with 42 school records, leading USF to a 21-4 record over his final two seasons. But Flowers measured only 5-10 3/8, considered too short for an NFL quarterback. He heard the same thing in high school.
Its always been about heart, said Flowers, who stands 5-foot-10, at the combine. Its never about the size. Its never about how much you weigh. Its about how much heart you have. Ive been doubted all my life. Ive been going through things all my life. I played every position in high school. Im just a guy who wants to win. Im destined to win. Ill do whatever it takes to win.
Even if he’s not a future NFL quarterback, one thing’s for certain. He can help a team in a number of ways, at a number of positions. And he’s a certified winner.
You can’t help but root for a guy like that.