"I had scholarship offers from all the small schools but in my junior year I was injured after four games and it caused the bigger schools to back off," Merritt said. "I think Hargrave can prepare me to play at a higher level and will help with my grades too. I'm looking mainly at [NC] State, UNC, and East Carolina right now."
Leaving Eastern Wake county and heading to Hargrave wasn't the easiest thing for Blake to do, but after learning that teammate and best friend Terry Hunter would accompany him, it made the decision much easier.
"In the last minute he came up to me and said that he would be coming with me to Hargrave. He needed to improve his SATs and going to Hargrave was the best move for him too. It's easier up here now because Terry's someone I know and we are like brothers. Terry coming up here's like a relief in my heart because it's just easier on me."
Last season at East Wake, Merritt finished the year with 103 tackles and 14 sacks. Standing 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, will he remain at Defensive End on the next level?
"I'll play Defensive End or lose some weight and play linebacker. I'm a little small from the edge but I can use my quickness and explosion to get around the tackles. I don't want to play Defensive Tackle because I would have to gain too much weight for that."
Two weeks before heading up to Hargrave, Merritt and Hunter visited NC State unofficially. They were impressed with what was on display.
"When I saw those facilities my jaw just dropped. I've been to a lot of places for visits but none can touch State's new building. We talked to Coach Amato in his office, the assistant coaches, and a lot of the players. We were going to go to a practice but we had to leave because Terry had to pick up his mom. But, we stayed up there a good while and hung out with the players. It was fun."
"Coach Amato's a great coach and the whole staff's up front with you and I like that. They don't beat around the bush and let me know early that I have to improve my grades if I want to play Divison-1. From the beginning they told me the truth about the situation that I was in. Coach Pate's my recruiting coach and he's a cool guy. He's laid-back and tells me what I need to hear. All the State coaches are so honest and upfront that you can't help but like them."
Merritt, who grew up an NC State fan, often teams up with Wolfpack commitment Darrell Blackman to dish out some trash-talk around Hargrave.
"Me and Blackman we talk trash to Khalif, Terry, and the other two that are going to Carolina. They get mad all the time and say ‘just wait until we get to Carolina, we're going to kill state,' but that's not going to happen. Marcus Hands will come in and throw out my NC State flip-flops… stuff like that. It's all fun though and they are all good guys too."
Blake plans to use all five official visits this year before making a decision in February. A strong year at Hargrave can lead to several high-major offers and that's his concern right now. However, it's obvious that there's one offer Merritt's waiting for.
"If I had offers from every school in the country on National Signing Day then I would pick NC State. It's just the place I want to go and hopefully in the end I can do that."