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Welcome back to SZN Opener, CASSIUS’ sports podcast that focuses on the unique journeys of Black athletes in college.

In Episode 2, we meet Alabama State University running back Jacory Merritt, who tells host Lamar Hurd about his journey to college football and the role that his strong family foundation played in getting him to one of the top HBCU football programs in the country. Merritt also shares his experience of overcoming some serious health issues and how he bounced back better than ever.

Merritt had to put himself out there and showcase his athletic abilities to get the attention of recruiters. “I wanted to play college football but I wasn’t getting recruited, so I had to take matters into my own hands and put myself out there more,” he said. He ended up at Alabama State University in his hometown of Montgomery, where he was born and raised. He describes the highly structured life of a student-athlete. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the world in its tracks, Merritt and his teammates continued their training so they would be ready for their chance to play football again.

Merritt describes having his family support system at every stage of his football journey. “I always had the support. I grew up kind of rough, but I always had good caring folks around me who kept me motivated,” he said.

When Merritt was in the hospital for heart and lung issues, his family remained supportive through this experience and he ended up gaining back more weight than he lost while he was sick. “[My family] was there for me everyday, coming to see me, telling me it was gonna be alright. Because I was at a low point then, I didn’t know what was going on, really. So it just kept me going.”

Merritt’s family was with him on Signing Day and continues to be his anchor through his football journey. “They’ve been with me every step of the way. The little things; not missing a game, stuff like that. I could be all the way in another state, [and] they’re gonna fly out. They are a big impact on my life. If I’m not being myself… if I’m being too hard on myself, they’ll brighten up my day, like, you okay? So that’s who really keeps me going. My parents, my grandparents, my family.”

Listen to the podcast here on the Urban One podcasts platform or your favorite streaming app.

SZN Opener Episode 2: The Impact of Family & Overcoming Health Issues with ASU Running Back Jacory Merritt  was originally published on