"My Dad and I always watched the draft together, ever since I was a little kid," said Merrick, who is finishing up his senior year at Iowa.
But this year's draft was different. Merrick's agent, David Lee, told Merrick that he had a good chance to be selected in the later rounds of the NFL Draft.
Merrick ran a 4.55 in the 40-yard dash at a tryout camp held on the campus of the University of Iowa, with approximately 22 scouts in attendance.
"I thought I had a great workout," Merrick said. "I was told I had a shot. So I watched the first day as a fan. On the second day, I had more of an interest, seeing what safeties went where."
Sure enough, Merrick's father Todd flew out to Iowa to watch the draft with his boy, like he always did.
"I was wondering if some of these teams were looking at me," Merrick said.
After all, Merrick had a solid senior year for the Hawkeyes, collecting 82 tackles and two interceptions. He was ranked among the top tacklers in the Big 10 conference and had seven solo tackles in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio against the University of Texas. He was a team captain and a two-time honoree as Iowa's best defensive back.
So he definitely had a shot of being selected in the draft.
But when the sixth round came around, then the seventh, with Merrick not hearing his name called, he began to wonder.
"I started to get a little antsy," Merrick said. "My agent kept telling me that everything happens for a reason."
The draft ended with Merrick not getting selected, but it didn't mean an unhappy ending.
"I knew that some teams were interested in signing me as an undrafted free agent," Merrick said. "I spoke to the [Cleveland] Browns, the [Jacksonville] Jaguars, a bunch of teams that were interested. I figured it was the best thing that could have happened to me, because I could pick the team that had the best situation."
As it turned out, the team with the NFL's best record last season was the one who came calling with the best offer. The San Diego Chargers, with a new coach in Norv Turner, offered Merrick a free agent contract.
"They called me right at the end of the draft and told me that they were interested," Merrick said. "They said that they liked Hawkeye players and had three on the team. I figured it was a great opportunity for me, because they have a spot open at safety. I liked my chances with the Chargers. They're a Super Bowl contender. What better chance could I ask for? Also, it's in southern California. It's perfect."
Merrick signed the contract with the Chargers Tuesday and two days later, he was bound for California to participate in the team's rookie mini-camp this weekend.
"I'm just eager to get there and show them what I got," said Merrick, who was a two-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree during his playing days at Emerson.
Merrick will attend the rookie mini-camp this weekend, then head back to San Diego on May 15 to work with the veterans as well. He's on his way to becoming a professional football player.
Merrick is the first Union City product to sign a pro football contract since former Emerson standout lineman Frank Winters signed with the Cleveland Browns back in 1987. Winters went on to have a fine career later on with the Green Bay Packers, winning a Super Bowl title with the club.
It's been 20 years, but Emerson has another pro football player.
"It's a great feeling to be able to represent Emerson and Union City," Merrick said. "It shows you how far Emerson football has come and I expect more in the coming years. It's really a dream come true. I'm getting a shot and that's all I can ask for. If I continue to work hard, I can make it. They obviously saw something in me. I'm going to see it through. I'm very excited. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance and I have to make the most of it. My foot is in the door and now I have to kick the door in."...
Merrick is not the only local product attending an NFL rookie mini-camp this weekend. Former Hoboken High School and Rutgers punter Joe Radigan will be trying to make his presence felt at the Chicago Bears' rookie camp this weekend as well. Radigan received an invitation from the Bears to attend the camp, but has not been offered a contract yet. He will have to prove himself this weekend, but Radigan, the Big East's top punter last season and one of the best in the NCAA, will give it his all to make it with the defending NFC champs....
Etch it in stone right now. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Baseball Coach of the Year better be St. Peter's College's head coach Derek England, especially since the Peacocks won their school-record 20th game of the season last weekend, sweeping a weekend series with a tough Niagara squad. Considering that the Peacocks won five games in England's first year and 10 last year, this is a remarkable story. England, the Hoboken native, should be the league's Coach of the Year and if he isn't, there should be an inquest hearing.
Weehawken's Kevin Kallert has been ripping the cover off the ball for the Peacocks, collecting 11 hits last week alone...
The 2007 induction class for the Hoboken/Demarest Sports Hall of Fame has been officially determined for the annual dinner, which will be held on Saturday, May 19, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Hoboken Elks Club.
Heading the list of inductees is former Hoboken grid great Wilbur Valdez, who also played at the University of Miami and is currently the head coach at Ferris High School in Jersey City.
Others being inducted include three-sport star Frank Boniface, football and baseball standout Michael Casazza, swim coach Fran Ciriello, basketball standout Charlie Coe, football great Sam Curko, baseball standout Tony Machuca and soccer standout Leo Pellegrini.
Jude Fitzgibbons will receive the Jerry Molloy Award, and Jimmy Garrick will be the recipient of the Special Achievement Award.
Tickets cost $50 for adults and $25 for children 12 years old and under. The discounted price also applies to previously inducted Hall of Fame members.
Anyone wishing to attend the dinner can contact Buddy Matthews at Hoboken High School at (201) 356-3712 during school hours...
There were some impressive performances at the recent Penn Relays Carnival on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
First, Secaucus' discus thrower Nick Britt finished eighth in the individual discus invitational with a school record throw of better than 160 feet.
Next, the North Bergen 4x400 meter relay team finished second in its heat, just missing the chance to bring home a plaque from the Penn Relays. The relay team of Jayson Colon, David Portes, Robert Spezzacatena and Joe Madera finished in 3:30.6, the fastest time posted in Hudson County this season. Way to go...
Finally, is there any doubt who the front-runner is for the Hudson Reporter Softball Player of the Year? County Prep's Danielle Gaffey is enjoying a senior year to remember, having defeated High Tech for a second time this season the other day. Gaffey has the Hurricanes in first place in the HCIAA Seglio Division...