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A ‘Lights Out’ NFL rookie

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Jan 25, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.diamondbackonline.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2006/01/25/43d7141d9a7a2">Diamondback Online</a>

    By Sam Duvall

    <img width="248" height="318" align="right" alt="Shawne Merriman" id="image1873" title="Shawne Merriman" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/01/merriman06.jpg" />With three minutes and 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the San Diego Chargers held a slim two-point lead over the undefeated Indianapolis Colts.

    When the reigning NFL MVP Peyton Manning handled the snap from center, he found himself under pressure from a rookie outside linebacker once again. He scrambled to avoid a sack and, rather than take another punishing hit, Manning threw the ball out of bounds and was called for intentional grounding, which led to a crucial Colts punt.

    Lights out. With that, the Colts' undefeated season came crumbling down with the rookie taking much of the credit.

    The pressure on Manning was brought by former Maryland standout "Light's Out" Shawne Merriman. His seven tackles and two sacks that afternoon established the Upper Marlboro native's name on the national scene and was a large factor in why he was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year on Jan. 4.

    "He's a terrific player; very, very powerful," San Diego Chargers Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "He reminds me of Lawrence Taylor, given his speed and his unusual power."

    Merriman is the first Terp alumnus to win the award. He received 28.5 votes, compared to just 16.5 for the runner-up, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu of the Seattle Seahawks.

    "It was not a big surprise to me winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year," Merriman said. "I wanted to be one of the best coming out of the draft and that was one of the accolades that showed I put in all the hard work over the season."

    Merriman also wanted to be one of the best-paid players coming out of school. He held out the first week of training camp and eventually signed a contract worth up to $15.73 million with $9 million guaranteed. But his contract disputes were only the beginning of a rocky start.

    Merriman hurt his knee in the Chargers' final exhibition game and did not play in the team's opening game. He had only six tackles in his next five games, including his first career sack.

    "I held out of training camp so I had a lot of catching up to do watching film and talking with coaches," Merriman said. "But once that happened, the game really slowed down."

    Merriman started to show his potential against the Philadelphia Eagles in October in his first game as a starter. He recorded five tackles, including one sack. He followed that up with five sacks and 18 tackles in his next three games.

    After compiling 54 tackles and 10 sacks - the latter being tops among NFL rookies - Merriman was named a starter on the AFC Pro Bowl team.

    "It was a big honor, because not all players make it to the Pro Bowl, and I get to be out there with all the players I watched growing up," Merriman said.

    His success is no surprise to any of the coaches who have worked with Merriman over the years.

    "Shawne was a man among boys in high school," said Merriman's coach at Frederick Douglass High School, J.C. Pinckney. "We had to limit his reps to keep him healthy because his body hadn't caught up to his ability to hit."

    Al Seamonson, Maryland's outside linebackers coach, watched Merriman develop from a high school prospect into a Pro Bowl star.

    "Watching film of Shawne in high school playing inside linebacker, I could tell that he was going to be something special," Seamonson said. "It was just a matter of time for his size and skill to catch up with his ... determination."

    After a standout junior season at Maryland, in which Merriman had 85 tackles and 8.5 sacks, the 6-foot-4, 272 pound force made himself eligible for the NFL Draft. Taken with the 12th overall pick in the first round by the San Diego Chargers, Merriman's NFL dreams had come true.

    But this didn't stop him from returning home. Merriman held his annual coat drive before the Wake Forest game Jan. 15 and was welcomed back by Comcast Center fans with a standing ovation.

    "I'm a Terp for life, and that's never going to stop," Merriman said.

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