On the surface, the story of Tyler Merrill getting offered by Penn State football is pretty straightforward.
He’s a Pennsylvania kid who plays high school football, is good at it, and had his talents recognized by Pennsylvania’s most prominent college program.
But digging deeper, Merrill’s story is hardly ordinary because he hasn’t always lived in Pennsylvania and didn’t move to PA from Ohio, West Virginia or even California.
He moved from Schwetzingen, Germany.
Tyler’s father, Matt, is an Erie native who was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army and ended up marrying a German woman, Yasmin Hampel.
So Tyler was born in Germany and lived there for his first five years.
Tyler Merrill remembers visiting historic World War II sites such as Bastogne and Normandy. Although Germany is better known for another kind of football, Merrill got to play the American version overseas.
“They had little league football in Germany as well, so I played that for, I think, two or three years,” Merrill told Nittany Sports Now. “I would watch the Army-Navy Game with my dad because that was really the big game that we watched together.”
Tyler Merrill was born in Germany and lived there until he was five before coming to Pennsylvania, his father’s home state. When Matt Merrill took a job in Germany in 2015, the family stayed there again for a while before returning to the United States for good in 2018.
Where was the first college football game he ever attended upon returning to the States? Beaver Stadium.
Merrill went with his family to Penn State’s 2018 season opener against Appalachian State, a game that Penn State won in overtime.
Merrill enjoyed the game, but the 11-year-old wasn’t thinking about playing at Penn State or anywhere else in college football at the time.
“I didn’t really grasp the fact that ‘man, I could potentially play here someday,” Merrill said. “I was just kind of like, ‘man. This is cool.'”
Fast forward almost five years, and Merrill, 15, is a promising offensive line prospect from Mechanicsburg’s Cumberland Valley High School.
Coming into last month, Merrill had offers from Akron, Iowa State, Kent State, Syracuse, Pitt, and Temple.
At a unique practice with Penn State’s offensive line coach, Phil Trautwein, on hand, Trautwein liked what he saw enough to notify Merrill’s Josh Oswalt that Merrill had an offer.
Oswalt announced the good news in front of Merrill and the entire team, and of course, his teammates erupted.
“That was really hyped and exciting,” Merrill said. “All the coaches were real happy, and the whole team came up and started congratulating and cheering for me, so that was really cool.”
So what does Trautwein like about the 6-foot-5, 310-pounder?
“I think what Trautwein likes about me is the fact that I can move for my size,” Merrill said. “Because not a lot of 300-pound kids can move very well. I feel like that’s one of my gifts is just being able to move well for my size and being able to be athletic, and also my strength. I would say I’m stronger than average. I don’t want to pump myself up or anything.”
Merrill doesn’t want to “pump himself up” with his words, but the gym is a different story.
At just 15, Merrill can bench around 320 pounds, and because of his strength and build, people are surprised when they find out how young he is.
“I get a lot of ‘oh, man.’ Merrill said. “I get a lot of that. I didn’t always get treated like my age because people thought I was a lot older than I am. They think, “oh, look at this big kid, he’s probably 17, hanging around little tiny kids.”
Merrill is capable of playing both guard and tackle.
An NFL player he loves watching is 10x Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams.
“Everything that he does, I feel like, is powerful and aggressive,” Merrill said.
On the college level, Merrill likes watching Notre Dame’s Joe Alt.
Merrill’s visited Penn State twice for camps and attended a practice this spring. He plans on attending another camp in Happy Valley this summer.
Aside from Trautwein, Merrill has talked to tight ends coach Ty Howle, who recruits heavily in Pennsylvania, and assistant recruiting coordinator Rashad Elby. Merrill introduced himself briefly to James Franklin but has not spoken extensively with the big boss.
Merrill has a big summer planned, with another trip to Penn State on the docket.
The week of June 11-15, he plans on visiting Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan and Notre Dame.
It’s still early for Merrill, but with Penn State being an in-state school, plus his father and uncle being big Penn State fans, and his grandfather and aunt being graduates, it’s safe to say Penn State’s in the hunt early on.
“Penn State is definitely a big deal, I would say, and definitely a great school,” Merrill said. “It would be high on my list even in the future, just because I’ve been rooting for them all my life, and I know Penn State and have been around Penn State. It was just a really big deal (for the offer) to happen.”