Merrick Chasing NFL Dream

Miguel Merrick admits that he's not the biggest or the fastest safety prospect on the market, but he's still determined to prove hard work and heart outweigh physical shortcomings. Senior Writer Rob Howe caught up with the New Jersey native and filed this Premium NFL Draft Preview story.

Looking for a reason that the NFL questions his ability to play in the league, Miguel Merrick scans himself up and down.

He smiles.

"Well, I'm not the biggest guy in the world," the Iowa safety said. "And, I'm also not the fastest guy in the world."

When the selection process unfolds on April 29-30, however, the New Jersey native feels like there's a spot for him among football's elite company.

"They can't measure the heart or how bad that I want it," Merrick said. "I know I'm probably going the free agent route, but that's OK. I just want a chance; a chance to lay it out there."

After an all-state prep career at wide receiver, Merrick arrived at Iowa and moved to the defensive backfield. Like so many Hawkeyes before him, he made his mark on special teams and wound up starting his final two seasons at strong safety. He enjoyed one of the most consistent and productive years among the team's defenders in 2006 and earned honorable mention all-Big Ten laurels.

The postseason all-star games passed on Merrick, whose 6-foot, 203-pound listing in the Iowa media guide might be a tad generous. He worked out for NFL scouts at Iowa's pro day and let his game tapes do the rest.

"My agent is getting some good feedback," Merrick said. "I think there's a chance for me."

One of the teams in contact with Merrick's reps is the New York Jets, which plays is close to his hometown of Union City, New Jersey.

"Yeah, that would be nice," Merrick said with a laugh. "But the cost of living is a little high."

Merrick boasts intangibles like leadership and a strong work ethic and improved each year in college. He also played in the Iowa secondary, which has produced NFL players in Matt Bowen, Derek Pagel, Bob Sanders and Sean Considine in the last decade.

Merrick finished fourth on the Hawkeyes in tackles (82) as a senior. He paced the team in pass breakups (nine) and tied for the lead in interceptions (three). He also contributed 2.5 tackles for loss.

"You know, I thought about playing in the NFL when I was in high school, but I think a lot of guys do," Merrick said. "I think the same can be said for guys in college. But you really don't know what the feeling is like until you get to this point. It's exciting and nerve-wracking."

If things don't work out in the NFL, Merrick is willing to try playing in other professional leagues.

"Canada, Arena, Europe, it doesn't matter to me," Merrick said. "I'm not ready to stop playing football. I think I still have a lot left to give."

Merrick already graduated from Iowa and is enrolled in graduate school. He is studying sports administration.

He has planned his life after football.

"I'm going to take (Iowa Athletic Director) Gary Barta's job someday," Merrick said.

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