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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Tuesday, November 29, 2006

By Sammy Batten

Offensive Analysis  •  Defensive Analysis  •  Thumbnails

QB's & Receivers  •  O-Linemen & RB's  •  Thumbnails

Nash Central sack artist won over by ECU

Defensive end Mercer banking on being a part of Pirates' resurgence

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Skip Holtz could tell East Carolina defensive line coach Donnie Thompson really wanted to see Maurice Mercer in a Pirate uniform next summer.

“Coach Holtz told me that every time a coach would bring up someone else they wanted to recruit at defensive end, Coach Thompson would say, ‘No. I want that kid from Nash Central,’’’ said Mercer, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound pass-rushing specialist who made Thompson’s wish come true in early October by verbally committing to the Pirates.

The decision ended a three-month courtship of Mercer by the Holtz, Thompson and linebackers coach Thomas "Rock" Roggeman, who was his main recruiter. Boston College, North Carolina, N.C. State and Virginia were some of the others who were showing interest in Mercer, but the Pirates clearly made the strongest impression.

“A lot of big schools were inviting me to their games, but each time I went to an East Carolina game the coaches made me feel like I was at home,’’ Mercer said. “When I went to other places they just gave me tickets to the game, but the coaching staff didn’t really make me feel welcome.

"I really enjoyed myself every time I went to East Carolina. Coach Holtz even invited me on the field and talked to me about becoming a Pirate. So when they called to offer me a full ride, I didn’t hesitate to accept it.’’

Mercer resides in Nashville, a town of about 4,500 about 10 miles west of Rocky Mount and only about 30 miles from the East Carolina campus in Greenville. He’s been a member of the varsity football team at Nash Central since his freshman season, but has started the last two seasons at defensive end. Mercer has also seen spot action at tight end during his career.

Nash Central has only been open for five years and the football program was only in its second season when Mercer reported for preseason practice as a freshman.

“We brought several freshmen up to the varsity because of numbers,’’ Nash Central coach Kenneth Grantham said. “He had a big frame to work with and a lot of tools. We felt like he would be a good for us down the road, and he has developed into a pretty good ballplayer.

“He’s got good height and is really quick off the ball. I could even see him playing linebacker in college. He still needs to develop some in the weight room, but he has tremendous potential.’’

Maurice will be the second Mercer to advance to the college football ranks. His older brother Marcus played at Northern Nash High School and spent the 2003 season with the NCAA Division II Shaw Bears. A 6-2, 217-pound linebacker, Marcus left Shaw after the coach who recruited him to the school departed for another job. He wound up playing a year of junior college football in 2005 at the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA.

Maurice Mercer said his brother is now enrolled at Texas State University, where he’s a middle linebacker with the football team.

“I guess you could say I’m following in my brother’s footsteps,’’ Maurice Mercer said. “He won a lot of awards and accomplished a lot of things when he was in school, and I wanted to do the same thing. I think I’ve fulfilled that now.’’

Mercer collected eight quarterback sacks as a senior in helping Nash Central to a 7-4 finish. When asked to describe himself as a defensive end, Mercer said he “likes to take control of everything on the field.’’

“I’m a real big-time leader and that’s one of my main strengths,’’ Mercer said. “I’m a good pass rusher, but I can also keep outside containment. I don’t let nothing get outside of me. I’m also good at knocking down passes.’’

Mercer is looking forward to joining the Pirate family next fall and is excited about the future.

“East Carolina is kind of like my high school,’’ Mercer said. “We’ve come a long way from when we first opened. Now, this year we’re a playoff team.

“Well, now East Carolina is winning big-time games after a couple of down years. I feel like a lot of people are going to start becoming East Carolina fans in the near future because of how good the program is becoming. That’s why I’m happy I’m going to be part of all that.’’

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02/23/2007 02:37:51 PM


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