Merling's draft stock took a hit at the NFL Combine, where he was only able to participate in the bench press due to a groin injury. It didn't help that he only put up a modest 17 reps.
"I haven't really paid attention to that," Merling said. "I'm glad there are people out there saying I'm a good player."
LB Phillip Merling
If teams are scared off by Merling's injury, the Cardinals could steal him with their second-round pick, No. 50 overall.
Merling has no reservations about playing in Arizona's 3-4 scheme. He just wants to play.
"I wouldn't mind playing (inside)," Merling said. "Anyway I can get on the football field, I just want to find a place to play. But playing defensive end or tackle, it doesn't really matter. I think I could do a good job at both of them.
"We played a couple of defensive fronts where I played inside and I got some pressure on the quarterback on third-and-longs."
Merling Family Tree
The decision to opt out of his senior year wasn't about going after the big bucks or fulfilling his NFL dream a year early.
"I decided to come out early because I have a little [1-year-old] daughter, and for my fiancée – she's about to graduate from the University of South Carolina, so this was a perfect time," Merling said.
Another member of Merling's family who influenced his career is his uncle, Chris Rumph, who is a former South Carolina linebacker/defensive end. Rumph was hired this year to be the defensive line coach at Clemson. Merling was raised by his uncle and aunt since junior high. His appreciation to both of them transcends football.
"My uncle Chris Rumph was really good for my college career. He's always been there to tell me what to do and what not to do. He's been really important in my growth as a football player.
"When I needed somebody to really look after me and show me the way in high school, he started looking after me. He showed me a lot of things in life. There were a lot of things I could do. He just showed me the right way."
Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications.