Kirk Merritt hungry for NFL opportunity

Published 12:05 am Saturday, April 18, 2020

DESTREHAN – As a rising senior at Destrehan High School, all-around athlete Kirk Merritt won the 2014 Nike SPARQ National Championship for an outstanding performance in the vertical leap, shuttle run, kneeling power ball toss and a lightning fast 4.43 seconds 40-yard dash.

The athletic versatility has served him well through college, and Merritt believes it will guide him into the next chapter of his life as he takes on the 2020 NFL Draft.

Scheduled for April 23-25, this year’s NFL draft is going virtual in response to coronavirus concerns. Instead of convening in Las Vegas, all 32 NFL teams will be connected via a video conference to make life altering decisions for the athletes waiting anxiously at home.

For Merritt, the video conference won’t make much of a difference. He’s not into partying, anyway. It’s enough for him to be home with his family, staying positive and hoping for the best.

Merritt is projected to be drafted at mid-range, somewhere between the fourth and seventh round. He’s received interest from numerous NFL teams, including the Jets, Saints, Patriots, Jaguars, 49ers, Giants, Bengals, Cardinals and the Packers.

“For me, it doesn’t even matter (where I end up),” Merritt said. “I will be blessed with any opportunity, drafted or undrafted. I’m grateful because a lot of people don’t get this opportunity at all.”

Merritt was highly recruited in high school, where he helped lead the Destrehan Wildcats to the 2014 Class 5A state championship game. Born in Metairie, Merritt said moving to the River Parishes shaped his upbringing.

“Coming from a 5A school, there was Ed Reed, Destrehan’s finest,” Merritt said. “There are always athletes coming out of Hahnville, East St. John, going to great schools and the League as well. That all shaped me into being a great football player.”

Former Destrehan High football coach Stephen Robicheaux said Merritt was “one of the best all-around athletes” that he’s ever coached.

“He was a tremendous athlete, a great track star. He could play in the back field as running back or as receiver. He was a tremendous football player to be able to do both,” Robicheaux said.

Merritt played his freshman collegiate season in Oregon and saw action in 15 games. He later transferred to Texas A&M, East Mississippi Community College and Arkansas State.

Moving from large campuses and larger fan bases to a junior college with just one gas station, a Subway and a Dollar General was a big adjustment.

“There was some adversity that I’m glad I went through, and it helped me change my perspective on football as well as life,” Merritt said. “I bonded with the guys even more and won the national championship for JuCo. It all worked out in the end.”

While with the East Mississippi Lions, Merritt left his mark with 52 receptions, averaging 12.1 yards per catch with four touchdown grabs in one year.

Merritt graded well on his measurements for the draft two weeks ago in Dallas alongside former NFL scout Josh Cox.

Merritt has dreamed of the NFL draft since he was 5 years old. One of his ultimate goals for the future is to become Rookie of the Year in the NFL, but he recognizes that the best route to success is to take things step by step.

“This is the opportunity I have always been waiting for to support myself and support my family,” Merritt said. “Once you get to camp, you have to prove yourself whether you are drafted or undrafted. It will be a great opportunity for me to showcase my skills and show the coaches what I’ve got. I’m not just a receiver. I can be used as kickoff return, punt return, special teams as well. I bring a lot to the table. I feel like teams will take a chance on that.”

Merritt tries to model his game after Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and feels his strengths are similar to those of Deebo Samuels of the San Francisco 49ers.

When he’s not training for football, Merritt likes to clear his mind by painting. His artwork can be found on Instagram @Kirkskreations.