GREEN BAY – The 100-meter relay team was clearly stacked with three – sometimes four – future NFL players passing the baton for Lakewood (Fla.) High School.
With future Vikings draft pick Rodney Adams occasionally rotating as the first leg, twin brothers Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin handled the second and third before Marquez Valdes-Scantling sprinted to the finish line.
Valdes-Scantling says he was the fastest (with a grin on his face), and it’s hard to disagree with that playful assessment based on comparable 40-yard dash times at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Packers’ rookie receiver ran a 4.37-second time in February, barely edging the identical 4.38s of the Griffins. Together, the trio contributed to Lakewood winning a state title as a team during their senior year.
“We were fast,” Valdes-Scantling said. “We ran really fast.”
Valdes-Scantling considers the Griffin brothers family, having grown up five minutes apart in St. Petersburg. They played Little League together, went to the same schools and became fast friends.
Before the draft, they got together for a dinner event NFL veteran and St. Petersburg native Louis Murphy puts on every year for rookies in the area who got drafted or signed as free agents. Afterward, they even went bowling.
Last weekend, it was only fitting Shaquem and Valdes-Scantling were both selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Not long after Seattle took Shaquem with the 141st overall pick, Valdes-Scantling went to Green Bay at No. 174.
The Seahawks selecting Shaquem made headlines not only because it reunited him with Shaquill, a third-round pick last year, but also because it marked the first time a player with only one hand was drafted in the league’s modern era.
“I’m kind of numb to it because I’ve been around him since he lost his hand,” Valdes-Scantling said. “When people talk about it, I see him as a normal person every day. But if you take a step back and think, ‘Wow, he really does have one hand,’ that’s breathtaking the things that he’s done. But he’s been doing that since we were little. It’s not like new to me.”
Born with the congenital disorder amniotic band syndrome, Shaquem endured unimaginable pain in his left hand as a child before it finally was amputated at four years old.
What might have been a traumatic episode for most children didn’t hinder Shaquem’s happy-go-lucky outlook on life. Grounded by a family who wouldn’t let him feel sorry for himself, Shaquem led a normal life and did everything all the other kids in the neighborhood did growing up.
Valdes-Scantling credits Shaquem’s sunny disposition on life to the support of his parents, Tangie and Terry, and Shaquill. Valdes-Scantling derives a lot of personal inspiration and motivation from Shaquem’s story, especially now seeing his close friend live out his dreams in the NFL.
“They never let him say, ‘You can’t do this. You can do it and you’re going to do it,’” Valdes-Scantling said. “He played every sport. He ran track since he was small. They did everything. We were state champions in track. We did everything together. To see him do those things and continue to do those things and persevere over this adversity, it’s an honor to see it.”
With the Griffins now settled in on the West Coast, Valdes-Scantling has his own business to attend to at this weekend’s rookie orientation in Green Bay. One of three rookie receivers the Packers drafted, Valdes-Scantling knows competition will be fierce this summer at a position with five returning veterans.
He’s not shying away from the spotlight, though. His job is to make plays whether it’s Aaron Rodgers or undrafted rookie Tim Boyle throwing him the ball.
“He bleeds just like I bleed. He puts on his shoes just like I put on my shoes,” said Valdes-Scantling of possibly catching passes from Rodgers at some point. “He’s a player just like I am. I can compete with anybody no matter if he’s a Hall of Fame guy or a tryout guy. We’re all the same. No one’s better than the other. We’re all here to compete.”
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