Silencing the critics

CFC TOP 100 pivot accepts NCAA Division 1 offer.

A lot of hard work and dedication has transcended to where CFC TOP 100 Chris Merchant finds himself today.

The 6’2, 195 pound quarterback from Calgary, Alberta has verbally committed to NCAA Division 1’s University of Buffalo Bulls.  It is a dream realized; however, there were some that doubted his ability to play south of the border.

Eventually, he silenced his critics.

“For the past year I have been doing everything I can to try and give myself an opportunity to go down to the States and play football at a high level,” explained Merchant.  “I travelled down to 7v7 camps, showcases, and football coaches to try and give myself a shot.”

“I was always told I would never be good enough to play Division 1-A football but I knew that if I put myself in the right position by working hard that I would get the opportunity.”

That opportunity came as one team paid attention to the Alberta quarterback and was impressed by what he had to offer.

“When I was told by my Coach (St. Andrew Saints Head Coach) Len Gurr, that Buffalo would like to see me at their prospect camp I knew my opportunity had come,” recalled the Alberta quarterback.  “We went to the camp and I thought I performed well enough to give myself a chance.”

“The next two weeks went by and after my coach had sent my transcripts and film to them they decided to offer me.”

The offer from Buffalo came on June 14th.  While this news made Merchant happy, he wanted to see what other interest was out there in the open market.

“I was thrilled but I also had camps at Dartmouth, Brown, and Yale coming up so I didn’t want to commit before exploring all my options,” added Merchant.  “I went to the Ivy League camps and performed well, gaining interest from Dartmouth and Yale as well as a spot for early admission at Brown; however, what I didn’t like was that I would only get four years of football there.”

However, Buffalo was not far from his mind.

“During that time I was able to visit Buffalo and get a better sense of the school,” said the Alberta quarterback.  “After seeing the plans they had for the upcoming years as well as the plan they had for me, my interest started to pick up.”

“I loved the academic programs they had to offer me in Exercise Science and Business and this is what ultimately capped my decision.”

When asked for comment regarding confirmation of his commitment to Buffalo, the Bulls football program were unable to confirm or deny this news until February, 2014 – NCAA Signing Day.  This is due to an NCAA rule.

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Merchant began his career at the age of eight with the Calgary Wildcats football organization.  During his career, he has also suited up for the Calgary Falcons and high school team, Western Canada Redmen.

At the midget level last spring, Chris put up impressive statistics on the field as he has 63 completions in 117 attempts, 1235 passing yards (average of 190 yards per game) and six passing touchdowns while rushing for 206 yards with 12 rushing touchdowns.

After enjoying a successful career in Alberta, Merchant moved to Ontario this past season to play with the Saints, who compete in the Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA). The quarterback was named MVP of Team Ontario Selects at the 2013 Football University International Bowl in Austin, Texas.

In July 2012, the Canadian pivot represented his native province at the Football Canada Cup tournament in London, Ontario as a member of Team Alberta.  He led the team to a silver place finish at the tournament and also received Offensive MVP of the team’s opening game versus Team Nova Scotia.

Among the other honours Merchant has received during his gridiron career include Western Canada High School Male Athlete of the Year two consecutive times, Redmen junior team MVP in 2011 and Falcons midget team MVP in 2012.

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Chris Merchant

Saints Head Coach Len Gurr said that the football program is ecstatic of the news that their starting quarterback has opted to accept Buffalo’s offer. Gurr believes that Merchant will thrive with the Bulls.

“We’re all extremely proud of Chris and what he continues to accomplish,” commented Gurr.  “I know he has a positive feel for University of Buffalo and the coaching staff there.”

“He’s the type of kid who will excel in the NCAA environment. He’s extremely focused, driven and motivated.”

Gurr said with Merchant’s university future settled, the starting quarterback can refocus on his senior year with the Saints.

“It’s a great piece of mind for Chris knowing his university recruitment is taken care of entering into his senior year,” said the Saints Head Coach.  “He can now focus solely on training and leading our football program and his teammates to what we hope is another outstanding season.”

While the Alberta pivot will refocus on achieving goals with the Saints football program this upcoming season, he will also begin taking steps in preparing for the next chapter of  his gridiron career in Buffalo.

“In order to prepare for Buffalo, I am going to do exactly what I have been doing my whole life; working as hard as I can to put myself in the best position to succeed,” explained Merchant.  “I am excited about it but now that I know where I am going I can focus on my senior season at St. Andrew’s where we are trying to win our third championship in a row.”

There are several individuals that have encouraged, supported and motivated Merchant in achieving this feat.  Firstly, he acknowledged the coaches that have spent tremendous time in helping the Alberta pivot develop into the player he is today.

“There are tons of people I want to thank ranging from my teammates to previous coaches but I think there are a few people that have had the biggest impact on my life and football career,” reflected Merchant.  “The first person I want to thank is Donovan Dooley and his quarterback academy, ‘Quarterback University’.”

“I have been training with Coach Dooley for a couple months on and off but I have seen a significant improvement in my game. I also want to thank my coaches at St. Andrew’s: Len Gurr, Michael Carroll, Jeff LaForge, and Courtenay Shrimpton, who have all worked with me to help me obtain my dreams and I know that I wouldn’t be in the position I am in without them.”

Ultimately, Merchant would not have been able to pursue his gridiron dreams without the support of his family.  It is not lost on him how important his family has been throughout the recruitment process and his career.

“I would also like to thank my family for all of their support and love,” expressed Merchant.  “It has been a grueling process but they have stuck with me the entire time and have never stopped giving their support.”

“My mom and dad have never stopped believing in me and there is no way I would have come this far without them.”

Already, the pivot has already set high goals for himself when he does join the Bulls as he recognizes the significance of this commitment.

“When I go into Buffalo I am hoping to compete for a starting position as soon as I can,” explained Merchant.  “I am going to do whatever it takes to help the program but I also want to be the starting quarterback as soon as I can.”

“It is rare for a Canadian quarterback to make it to a Division 1 program and it is even rarer for them to start.  I want to change that and I am willing to do whatever it takes to get there.”

Overall, the hard work and determination has paid off for Merchant and he is thrilled about achieving this significant feat.

“It has always been my dream to play at a Division 1 level and I am finally starting to see that dream become a reality,” said Merchant.



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