A native of Upper Marlboro, Md., former Terps and NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman has always been a Maryland guy at heart — and giving back to his community has always been important to him.
Merriman was homeless for a time during childhood because two of his homes were lost to fires. Because of this, he made it a priority to help those who are less fortunate if he was ever in a position to do so. He started a coat drive during his sophomore year at the University of Maryland in 2003.
The coat drive has been going strong for 17 years. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, Dec. 7 at Xfinity Center starting at 3:30 p.m. ahead of the Maryland men’s basketball team’s Big Ten opener against Illinois at 5 p.m.
“Originally, I just thought I’d get a couple hundred coats and I’ll help a couple hundred kids or homeless people who didn’t have coats for the winter, and 26,000 coats later and my 17th annual, it’s still going,” Merriman said on Glenn Clark Radio Dec. 3. “… I just really appreciate everyone who understands the importance of bringing coats and bringing gently used warm items to these coat drives because it helps out a lot of people.”
Merriman is partnering with MCVET (The Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training), a charitable foundation that works closely with veterans who are homeless and dealing with substance abuse. The organization is located in Baltimore.
“I’ve always said that I don’t think that we’ve done enough for our vets in this country and I wanted to specifically do something for them this year,” Merriman said. “… Partnering and giving these coats to MCVET caters to homeless vets, both men and women, and is going to be a really big deal, not just for them, but for all the people that will be involved.”
Merriman, who played for Maryland from 2002-2004 and racked up 22 sacks, watched this year’s team end with a disappointing 3-9 record. Merriman still has complete trust in head coach Michael Locksley, who was on head coach Ralph Friedgen’s staff when Merriman was on the team in 2002. He knows firsthand how important recruiting local talent is and believes that there is no one better at doing that than Locksley.
“I’m a big advocate of guys staying home, so I can scream and go to the mountain top and tell you to stay home and tell you to stay home is going to be the best thing for you,” Merriman said. “But the truth is, there is so much talent in that DC, Maryland, and Virginia area, it’s ridiculous.”
“Get guys to stay home, get guys back healthy, I think that’s what people are forgetting as well,” Merriman added. “Once your starters go down, you have to have a solid backup, a guy that can come in and pick up the slack. If there’s a big drop-off from your first string to your second string, you have no chance at beating an Ohio State or Michigan or a Penn State.”