A reflection of life from recent post-football player Darius Merriweather
By Darius Merriweather
For all my life, I have been around football. From the time I was a kid, it was all I knew. From watching Philadelphia Eagles games in the legendary 700 level of Veterans Stadium, to idolizing Penn State after going to football games and basketball games with my mother, I was intrigued by football and always interested in it, but it took me a while to master and understand the game.
Football is such an intellectual game that it can take over your psyche. From an early age, I knew that in order to play football, you needed three things to succeed: controlled rage, uncanny alertness, and most of all, a deep passion to push yourself further than you ever anticipated. The competition in football is what fuels people to excel at the highest level possible, and it enables them to push their body twice as hard.
In high school, I was not the best student. Teachers used called me the “Black Hole of Homework.” Yes, it’s a true story. Ask my parents. Now that I can look back at the situation, and reflect on it, I believe that it correlated directly with my performance on the field. My high school career could be characterized in one phrase: good but not good enough. I was eligible, but not to the level that would convince most Division I schools that I could stay eligible. I was solid on the field, but not the top pick for many schools. As a result, I was passed on and overlooked by those same schools.
However, I was blessed to be given a full scholarship to Southern Illinois University. There, football became a 24/7 job that forced you to commit fully to the progress of the team. But as a tradeoff, that meant limited opportunities in jobs, internships and many other things that most college students get to experience. After three and a half years in Carbondale, Illinois, I left SIU and struck gold here at Findlay. I immediately realized when I got here, that my passion had shifted. I became aware that having dreams of playing in the NFL can cost you your sanity at times, and you begin to obsess over it. The last time I pulled on a Saluki jersey, I severely injured my foot. That threw my life off balance to a degree that I can’t even begin to explain. I was so bitter and frustrated over my health that I forgot the reason I loved playing football in the first place: because it’s supposed to be fun.
Fast forward to August of 2016, and I am preparing for my final season of football ever, and pushing myself hard during the summer. I lost nearly 27 pounds to be ready for our opening game versus Saginaw State. But just as quickly as my season began, it was quickly changed. Two concussions and a neck injury took away two months from my season and I was only able to play in five games this past year. I understand that it would be human nature to feel down in the dirt about losing part of your season to injuries. But thanks to my situation, I realized something it took 16 seasons for me to see: I genuinely loved the game. By the time the season was over, we beat Northwood at home and then went up to the Upper Peninsula to take down Michigan Tech in grand fashion (59-21 to be exact), I couldn’t have been happier with the way things ended. No, I could not play the same way I used to. No, I could not score that touchdown like I wanted. No, my playing time wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. But I just loved being out there competing with the guys. I was able to end my career on my own terms.
Fast forward to now, February 2017. I am three months away from graduating and busier than ever. I’m working for UFTV, hosting a talk show for WLFC and involved with other various clubs. But that makes everything worthwhile. My first career as a football player helped me to see that. The game taught me that no matter what happens in life, you can adjust with the bumps and cracks in the road ahead. Football taught me how to persevere when times get tough. The game played a big part in shaping me into who I am now, and it’s always molding me into the man I will become.