ORLANDO — Ryan Davis remembers growing up in St. Petersburg and hearing the stories about the boy with one hand who played as if he had two. It wasn’t until he met this boy in person, when they played against each other in Little League, that he developed a special friendship with Shaquem Griffin.
Now the two face each other today in the Peach Bowl, with Davis a junior wide receiver at Auburn and Griffin an All-America linebacker at UCF.
"I’ve known him since I was younger. We played Little League against each other. I’ve known him all of my life," Davis said of Griffin. "The first time I saw him, I didn’t understand what happened, but then I heard his story. And when I was in high school, I had a coach who told us stories about how hard he worked. We just see him as another person on the field.
"Seeing how hard he worked to get to where he’s at, it’s amazing what he’s doing with one hand. You can only imagine what he could do if he had two hands."
Auburn players and coaches were equally impressed with the job Griffin has done at UCF.
"He’s probably the best pass rusher I’ve seen all year," Auburn offensive lineman Austin Golson said.
Auburn junior running back Kerryon Johnson added, "Obviously, the first thing that pops up whether you want to or not, is the missing hand, but then you start watching him play and you think he’s got to be limited in some way but plays the game as if he has three hands."
Davis and Griffin attended Lakewood High, separated by a year. Both hoped to catch up before the bowl game this week.
And trash talking?
"We kept things on the cool level. We’ve been cordial, just catching up, really," Davis said with a smile.