Merriman Awaits Stardom in NFL

Maryland defensive end Shawne Merriman has always been a noticeable presence in his time with the Terrapins. While being a standout player, Merriman basked in the accolades and achievements of the team. In the weeks following his announcing he would forego his senior season at Maryland, the heat has turned up on the talented defensive prospect. <BR>

Following an evaluation by the NFL Committee on college player prospects, which notes Shawne Merriman should be no worse than an early second-round draft selection, the junior defensive standout quickly made the decision to enter the 2005 college player draft.

"Deciding to leave was a tough decision due to my ties to the school and my teammates. The support I have been shown has been great and I want to be part of the program, but I feel it is my time to play at the next level," Merriman said. Having the opportunity to play at the professional level is a dream and one which I have worked extremely hard towards. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by great family, coaches and teammates. They have all played a part in me getting to this point."

At times Merriman appeared to be a man among children last season — dominating the opposition became a regular sight in what was an overall disappointing 5-6 season for the Terrapins. Unable to lead Maryland to a bowl appearance in what is now his final season, Merriman is taking advantage of his spectacular testing and workout at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February to elevate his status in the upcoming draft.

"Shawne is one of the best players and person I have ever had the opportunity to coach. He is a very pleasant young man and is a great teammate, and shows dedication, not only to himself, but his teammates and the game," Maryland head coach Ralph Freidgen said. "From the day he came here, he has worked extremely hard and deserves the opportunity which awaits him."

When announcing his intention to enter the draft, Merriman wasn't assured of being a first-round draft selection. In the weeks following the decision, he has climbed NFL team draft boards in rapid fashion. With a significant amount of interest being expressed by teams holding early first-round picks, Merriman's calculated decision to become a professional may be rewarding.

With a lack of top-caliber defensive end / outside linebacker types rated highly in this upcoming draft, Merriman's tremendous speed, quickness and physical skills could separate him from the pack and ensure a lofty draft status on April 23. Showing the ability to either muscle through an engaging offensive tackle or run past the blocker, he continues to impress.

"I don't believe I have ever coached a player as quick and determined as Merriman," Freidgen said. "He has a great work ethic and he should become a very solid player in the NFL."

As the draft approaches, numerous scouts project Merriman to possess the physical ability to play either the defensive end position in a 4-3 defense or as a defensive end/outside linebacker in the 3-4. Depending on the scheme, Merriman has the tools and makeup to become a dominating type of player, according to league player personnel evaluators.

"Shawne Merriman has the tools to become the best defensive end/outside linebacker in this draft. His tremendous speed and quickness are great assets, but his physical strength and determination are the attributes which will take him to the next level," former Cleveland Browns Player Personnel evaluator Jeremy Green said. "If he would have played on national television often, he would be a household name, and let's remember he played on a Maryland team which wasn't strong this past season."

Despite the Terrapins' disappointing season, Merriman was an All-ACC defensive lineman in 2004, collecting 8 1/2 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and 85 tackles. Merriman finished his career in Maryland with 23 quarterback sacks, one off the team record set by Mike Corvino.

"I would have liked to have gotten the school record (sacks), but winning is more important than the personal records. Ending my time in Maryland with a losing record was a disappointment," Merriman said. "But, anyway, there's no question who the best was (regarding the sack record) if they seen me play.

"I don't know if the NFL teams and scouts knew who I was, but I am enjoying the chance to display my talents and ability to them. Once they see me work and in action, I'm confident a team will be selecting me to help them win. I interviewed and have spoken with almost every NFL team, in some cases a few times, which has been an exciting learning experience."

Not short on confidence and certainly not lacking talent, Shawne Merriman may be a name we remember for quite a long time.

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