Photo: Gadsden City High School seniors DeRickey Wright and Allen Merrick signed college football scholarships on Dec. 18 at the GCHS library. Pictured, sitting, from left: Christina Henderson, Wright, Merrick, Joame Cooper, Catrina Merrick, Iriall Merrick. Standing, from left: GCHS athletic director Todd Lamberth, GCHS head football coach Ali Smith.
By Chris McCarthyPublisher/Editor
A pair of Gadsden City High senior football players mapped out their immediate futures on Dec. 18.
De’Rickey Wright and Allen Merrick both signed college football scholarships with Division I programs, the former with Vanderbilt and the latter with UAB.
Wright, a senior transfer from Etowah who played in only one game last season due to a shoulder injury, verbally committed to the University of Alabama this past March before switching to Ole Miss in June. Playing at safety during his junior year at Etowah, Wright returned three of his six interceptions for touchdowns, scored a touchdown on a fumble return, broke up six passes and made 54 tackles.
Wright helped Etowah post a 12-1 record and an undefeated regular season, win the Class 5A, Region 6 championship and earn a second straight berth in the state quarterfinals. Wright was named to the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s 2018 Class 5A first team at defensive back.
“I’m excited that all stre-ssing from the recruiting is over with and I finally get to relax a little bit,” said Wright, who also fielded offers from Nebraska, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas A&M. “[Vanderbilt head football] Coach [Derrick] Mason stayed on me since I first started getting offers to when I de-committed until now. They always showed love, so kudos to them. I only got to play about 10 plays this year, so I’m just anxious to get back on the field. I miss it.”
Wright joins 2019 Eto-wah High graduate Justin Harris on the VU roster.
Merrick led the 2019 Titans in tackles with 82 tackles from his inside linebacker position.
“This is a new chapter for me, so it feels great,” said Merrick. “The atmosphere [at UAB] felt just like a family and it’s close to home. They’re building something over there and feel great to be a part of it. The [recruiting process] was very stressful, and I’m just glad to get it over with. It’s a big relief, and I felt like this was the best decision for me.”
Merrick participated in the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star football game on Dec. 14 in Hattiesburg, Miss. He finished with four tackles in Alabama’s 17-16 overtime loss.
“There was a lot of competition, so it makes you play better and helps you see where you’re at on the next level,” he said. “I think I was able to compete, and I had a lot of fun.”
GCHS head football Ali Smith noted that Wright and Merrick’s signings increased the number GCHS football scholarship recipients to approximately 65 in school’s 13-year history.
“[National] Signing Day has become a staple of our school and our community,” he said. “I’ve told De-Rickey and Allen and all the kids that came before them that they’re making a 30 to 40-year decision, not just a four-year decision.
“Allen will bring a lot of size and power and aggression [to the UAB defense]. He’s a student of the game and he wants to get better. De’Rickey is a phenomenal athlete, and [Vanderbilt] hit a home run getting him. I’ve watched him row as a player and as a person, and the sky’s the limit for him.
“Both of these kids took the initiative as freshman to make the decision to do the right things in order to have this opportunity as student-athletes. Today is just the beginning of a chapter in these young men’s lives. It’s a great journey, and we want De’Rickey and Allen to take advantage of it at each turn.”