Columbus High School senior Ryan Merritt is in the top five percent of his class. He uses his academic ability to help others.
“I tutor for free, mostly athletes to help them stay eligible during the season and off season,” he says. “Since it’s mostly athletes, it will keep them eligible and once they graduate, it opens up a bunch of scholarship opportunities for them.
He’s been tutoring after school four to five days a week since his freshman year. While it’s hard work, he enjoys tutoring.
“It’s fun helping people,” he says. “Because normally I’ve never struggled in school. I know it’s not as easy for most people. I like to help them find it easier than they do.”
Merritt’s dad has coached football at Columbus for 15 years, so he’s grown up around football. He’s played the game and spent time away. This year, he was on the sidelines for football season.
He hadn’t expected to play in high school because he had initially quit the game when he was ten. “Something called me back to it my sophomore year. I guess watching it my freshman year.”
Then he took videos of the games and practices for his dad. He played his sophomore year and then during spring practice he suffered a concussion from a helmet-tohelmet hit. He played the season after the injury but he had the nagging headaches so he decided not to play his senior year.
“It wasn’t too bad but I just didn’t want it to happen again,” he says. “So I felt I had to hang them up.”
While it was disappointing, it wasn’t an earth shattering decision because he says he knew he wasn’t going to be a superstar. Although he didn’t play this year, he was still involved in football. He still put in the time he would have if he was playing. “I do all the video work for them,” he says.
“I film all the practices, I do all the games. I film every play of every game and I upload it to the video service that we have.”
Concussions are a growing problem in sports. New regulations have been announced for children playing soccer that limit headers – eliminating them completely for younger children. In football, there are now baseline tests taken before the season that can be used if a player has suffered a head injury.
“If you are suspected of having a concussion you have to take the tests to get clear.” Merritt says his dad has actually worked with the NFL about spreading concussion awareness. “It’s kind of ironic that I got a concussion the fifth day of practice.”
Sports continue to be important to Merritt. In fact, he ran the Patriots Outreach drive at his school to collect old sports equipment to be donated to the children in the Dominican Republic. The drive was part of a multi-school effort to collect the equipment. At Columbus, they gathered two boxes filled with baseball gloves, cleat, baseball bats, football gloves, football cleats, footballs and soccer balls.
For college, Merritt has applied to the University of Florida and Johns Hopkins.
“Those are my top two,” he says.
He’s not certain about his major, but expects it will be something in the medical field.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld