Football Writers Association of America Nov. 2, 2016
For Immediate Release
Contact: Schuyler Easterling
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One-handed linebacker leads AAC in sacks
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DALLAS (FWAA) – UCF's Shaquem Griffin is this week's nominee for the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award.


Griffin has played football with one hand since he was 4 years old, as doctors amputated his left hand then as a result of amniotic band syndrome, a congenital birth defect.

The 6-foot-1, 213-pound linebacker has enjoyed a breakout campaign for the Knights, as he leads the American Athletic Conference in sacks (8.5) and is third in tackles for loss (12). The redshirt junior also leads UCF with two forced fumbles and is second on the team in tackles (58).

Griffin – who has started all eight games this season along with his twin brother, cornerback Shaquill Griffin – delivered a standout performance in this past Saturday's game at Houston, posting team-bests of 14 tackles, three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and one fumble recovery. He also recorded his first career interception, and he earned league defensive player of the week honors for his efforts.

"It's an amazing feeling," Griffin said after the game of inspiring others, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "It's a feeling that everybody can't have and I'm blessed to have that type of feeling to be that faith, that positivity, that inspiration for others and not just for young people but for older people, men and women. It's just a blessing for me and I wouldn't change it for [anything] in the world."

Kema-Kaleiwahea grew up on O‘ahu as the oldest in an adoptive family of six kids. After receiving a football scholarship to the University of Arizona, his family followed him to Tucson, Ariz. Soon after, at the age of 18, he learned his five siblings were in an abusive environment and he became their caregiver, even though he was a full-time student-athlete.

After marrying in 2014, he and his wife, Brianna, found assistance from extended family members, who adopted three of the children. Makani and Brianna adopted his other two siblings. Kema-Kaleiwahea and his family returned home in 2015, as Makani transferred to Hawai‘i to bring the siblings and extended family closer together.

A 6-3, 240-pound redshirt senior lineman, Kema-Kaleiwahea has 27 tackles this season, including two sacks. The defensive lineman has started all eight games for the Rainbow Warriors, and he tallied four stops in this past Saturday’s 34-27 double-overtime upset win at Air Force.

The Courage Award was first presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) in 2002. A select group of writers from the FWAA vote on the winner each year. The requirements for nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship. The winner of the award will be included in festivities during Capital One Orange Bowl week and receive his trophy at an on-field presentation.

Previous winners of the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award are Miami offensive lineman Hunter Knighton (2015), Duke offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson (2014), San Jose State defensive lineman Anthony Larceval (2013), Clemson wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez (2012), Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr. (2011), Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand (2010), the University of Connecticut football team (2009), Tulsa's Wilson Holloway (2008), Navy's Zerbin Singleton (2007), Clemson's Ray Ray McElrathbey (2006), the Tulane football team (2005), Memphis' Haracio Colen (2004), San Jose State's Neil Parry (2003) and Toledo's William Bratton (2002).

About the Orange Bowl
The Orange Bowl is a 360-member, primarily-volunteer non-profit sports organization that promotes and serves the South Florida community. With its primary mission since being created in 1935 to bring tourism to South Florida through an annual football game and events, it has also maintained a legacy of charitable contributions and community outreach. Orange Bowl community outreach efforts are comprised of four pillars: youth sports, fundraising and community events, academic programs and scholarships, and legacy gifts. The Orange Bowl features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the Capital One Orange Bowl on December 30, 2016. For more information on the 2016-17 Orange Bowl events, including promotional and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program presented by Panera Bread, log on to Follow Orange Bowl: @OrangeBowl, Facebook and Instagram.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of 1,400 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at

Editor's note: To download a print-quality photo of Shaquem Griffin, click on the photo within the release.

2016 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees
• Sept. 14: James Conner, Pittsburgh
• Sept. 21: Caylin Moore, TCU
• Sept. 28: Riley Sorenson, Washington State
• Oct. 5: Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State
• Oct. 12: Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
• Oct. 19: Mulbah Car, Houston
• Oct. 26: Makani Kema-Kaleiwahea, Hawaii
• Nov. 2: Shaquem Griffin, UCF
• Nov. 9: Tim White, Arizona State
• Nov. 16: Adam Ploudre, Missouri
• Nov. 23: Mike Sherels, Minnesota
• Dec. 1: Quinton Flowers, USF

Related link:
• Capital One Orange Bowl Courage Award