While saying nothing to purposely fan the flames of the USF-UCF rivalry during his weekly press conference Tuesday, Bulls coach Charlie Strong unintentionally provided fuel for the Knights' best player.
He used the h-word when discussing Knights senior OLB Shaquem Griffin, a Lakewood High alumnus who plays without a left hand.
"He's gonna cause a lot of problems for us, which he's caused a lot of problems for everyone," Strong said. "And he has a handicap, and he does not allow that to stop him from doing what he needs to do, which is really special about him."
While clearly praising Griffin, the word choice nonetheless caught the player's attention. Moments after that sound bite hit the social media stratosphere, Griffin tweeted: "It's not a handicap."
Griffin's story has been well chronicled nationally, and extensively by his hometown newspaper.
When his mother, Tangie Griffin, was pregnant with Shaquem and his twin brother Shaquill, doctors told her one of the babies had amniotic band syndrome, a condition in which a strand of the amniotic sac comes free and entangles itself with part of the fetus. A strand had wrapped around one of Shaquem's wrists, effectively choking off any further development.
The fingers on Shaquem's left hand never fully developed, causing the hand to throb in pain. His parents had the fingers surgically removed at age 4.
He flourished as a track/football player at Lakewood, and was named American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. This season, he leads UCF in sacks (3.0) and tackles for losses (7.5), and is third in tackles (47).