"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."
On the verge of minicamp weekend with his new team, 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 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, settling when he signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Diego Chargers.
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."