Griffin benches 20 reps with prosthetic hand

Shaquem Griffin of Central Florida gestures during the Senior Bowl on Jan. 27. -- AP file photo

INDIANAPOLIS — There’s always energy in the bench press room at the NFL scouting combine when players grip the crossbar and begin pumping the 225 pounds of free weights.

But never like this.

Even Shaquem Griffin, the one-handed do-it-all defender from Central Florida and a late invitee to the combine, didn’t expect to do what he did Saturday with his prosthetic left hand.

His personal max was 11, but he had a much more modest benchmark here.

“My goal was six,” Griffin acknowledged afterward.

Griffin clipped his prosthetic hand onto the bar, then leaned back.

This wasn’t his brother spotting him — the one who he was sure used to surreptitiously help him — but this new spotter was hyping him up and the crowd, and his fellow linebacker prospects, joined in.

“Everybody in the stands was hyping me up. I got the guys I’m here with hyping me up. It felt amazing,” Griffin said. “I was ready to go. I was ready to attack it.”

Before he knew it, he had blown past his goal and closed in on his personal best. Then, as the crowd started hollering, he kept on going all the way to 20.

“I said, this thing feels like 135. Let’s go!” Griffin recounted. “And I just started cranking them out.”

“I got chill bumps watching him do 20 reps,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. “I literally choked up a little bit watching him do that and I can’t wait to watch him tomorrow.”

Griffin was 4 years old when doctors amputated his left hand a day after his mother found him in the kitchen attempting to cut off his jelly-like fingers, which were in scoring pain whenever he touched anything, the result of amniotic band syndrome, a congenital birth defect.

Despite having just one hand, he kept up with his twin brother on and off the field.

As dozens of reporters and photographers gathered around him Saturday, Griffin said, “I thought I was going to walk over here and it was going to be like three people.”

Not after becoming the talk of this combine.

“It was amazing, hearing the crowd and having the juices flowing, I mean I felt it,” Griffin said. “I didn’t know I had it in me.”

Griffin, the 2017 American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year, said his mindset is he always has to do more than those around him to impress coaches.

“I always hold myself to a higher standard than a lot of people just because if we’re running drills, if I drop a ball, they’re going to like, ‘Well, he dropped the ball because he has one hand.’ If anybody else drops a ball, they’re going to be like, ‘Well, maybe it was a bad ball.’ “

Also completing his bench press Saturday was Lahainaluna High School graduate Hercules Mataafa. The consensus All-American defensive lineman from Washington State did 26 reps, according to Turron Davenport, a reporter for USA Today’s Eagles Wire. Mataafa is scheduled to complete other drills today.