Merkel headed to AndersonMay 19, 2014
From Herald Staff Reports
HUNTINGBURG — Alex Merkel was in pursuit of a challenge.
Between the five schools he had eyed as potentials, many seemed to offer a chance to help re-sculpt a football program needing a jolt. And when he visited Anderson University in late February, “everything just kind of came together,” said Merkel, who graduated from Southridge High School on Friday.
By the time he was driving back to Huntingburg, Merkel had decided in his mind the 2,500-student Christian school in north central Indiana was the right place for him. Last week, Merkel made it official as he signed to play for the Ravens in the fall.
“All the schools I was looking at had great academics and great football programs, and a lot of them were rebuilding. And I like to be a part of something where I can help make something special,” Merkel said.
“As soon as we left (the visitation) that day, it was just, ‘I’m going to go here and I’m going to do whatever it takes to make that happen.’”
The atmosphere around campus and within the football family was great, Merkel said, the training facilities — the same used by the Indianapolis Colts during training camp — were “amazing, top-of-the-charts” type resources, and perhaps more than anything, Merkel felt welcomed by the coaching staff at the Division III school which competes in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“No matter where you go, if you don’t have a relationship with your coach in any way, shape or form, it’s not going to be a great environment simply because, why would you want to work for a crappy boss?” Merkel said. “That’s just the way I always look at it.”
Merkel’s primary goal is to become a a social studies teacher and also coach, which he did with youth football and wrestling all four years of high school. And teaching “is not only a profession where I can be a coach, but it’s one where I think I would like to be around just because of the atmosphere and being around kids,” said Merkel, the son of Barb and Randy Strange of Huntingburg and Bret and Courtney Merkel, who live in Georgia.
As for football, Merkel should make an impact as well. As a defensive end on the Raiders’ sectional championship team last fall, Merkel led the team with six sacks and 18 tackles for a loss while racking up 60 tackles altogether. As for his role at Anderson, he said the coaches still aren’t sure where they’ll implement him. And that’s just fine with Merkel.
“I’m a team guy, so wherever they want to put me — if they want to put me back at (defensive end) or put me anywhere else, I’m not going to have any argument,” Merkel said. “I’m there to make the team better and I’m there to help them win championships. That’s the only thing that really matters and it’s the only thing that’s ever mattered to me in football.”
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