GREEN BAY, Wis. – Marquez Valdes-Scantling was the anchor on the Lakewood High School 4 x 100 relay team in St. Petersburg, Florida.
As the fastest one of the group, he took the baton from teammate Shaquem Griffin, who took the baton from his twin brother, Shaquill, who ran the second leg.
For the three childhood friends, it became second nature.
A seamless process.
Valdes-Scantling expects it to be the same way in the NFL for Shaquem, who last weekend became the first player with only one hand to be drafted in the league’s modern era. The Seattle Seahawks, who already employ Shaquill as a cornerback, took Shaquem, a speedy linebacker, in the fifth round last week.
Like his friend since they were 4-year-olds in pre-kindergarten, Valdes-Scantling also was picked in the fifth round last weekend. The receiver from South Florida went to the Green Bay Packers at No. 174 – 33 picks after Shaquem.
“I know he’s going to do great,” Valdes-Scantling said Friday when the Packers opened their rookie camp.
When asked why he’s so sure, Valdes-Scantling said: “Because I’ve known him since we were 4, and people have doubted him since we were younger and he’s shown everyone wrong every single time.”
The two were together earlier this week at a dinner hosted by fellow St. Petersburg native and NFL receiver Louis Murphy.
“He holds a rookie dinner for all the kids from our area who got drafted or picked up,” Valdes-Scantling said. “He puts that on. He kind of just teaches how to transition to the pro level.”
Afterward, he and Shaquem went bowling.
To Valdes-Scantling, there’s nothing unusual about his friend, who lost what he had of his left hand when he was 4. He had it surgically removed after his mother found him in the kitchen with a butcher’s knife trying to cut off his fingers that were marred by amniotic band syndrome, a congenital disorder that occurs in roughly 1 in every 1,200 births.
“He has a great family,” Valdes-Scantling said. “When you have something like that, that’s that traumatic, they never told him he couldn’t do anything. They never let him say, ‘Well, you’re handicapped. You can’t do this. You can do it and you’re going to do it.’ 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 thing and continue to do those things and persevere over this adversity, it’s an honor to see it.”
And it’s an inspiration to the Packers’ rookie, who was one of three receivers the team drafted. Valdez-Scantling's height (6-foot-4) and speed (4.37 in the 40) were apparent even in Friday's opening practice of rookie camp.
“You can do anything that you put your mind to,” Valdes-Scantling said. “He put his mind to it and it’s been working out for him ever since.”
Just like it did for their relay team.