At Spanishbowl we have had the opportunity to interview Chris Merchant, the new signing of LG Oled Las Rozas Black Demons. Here is what he has told us.
Hello! First of all, thank you very much Chris for letting me to take a few minutes of your time to answer our questions.
1.-You were born in Calgary, a great city where he was born just to name a few Nate Burleson (host of Good Morning Football on NFL Network), Mark Rypien (Winner of two Super Bowl with Washington) or the famous Hart saga (family known for his connection with the Wrestling)
How was your love for football kept pure in a city where Wrestling and Hockey occupy an important part?
I think Calgary is a city that allows youth to excel in any sport they decide to pursue, not just hockey or wrestling. The football programs in Calgary are some of the best in Canada because there are great coaches that focus on the development of the game. I was able to start playing when I was eight years old and was fortunate enough to have a lot of great coaches who helped me become the player I am today.
2.-Your hometown has a team belonging to the Canadian Football League, the Calgary Stampeders. A team in which Doug Flutie, Allen Pitts or Alondra Johnson played as QB for some seasons, that currently belong to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Can you imagine being able to raise a Grey Cup like them and have your own legacy?
It was always a dream of mine to play in the CFL and hoist the Grey Cup someday but at the moment my goals are with the Black Demons – a team that believes in me and thinks I can help them win a championship. Every step along my football journey has helped shape me into who I am today and I am thankful for all of them. Las Rozas has given me another one of these great opportunities and I intend to take full advantage of it.
3.- You studied at St. Andrews, were you classified as one of the best high school players, that opened the doors to the University of Buffalo.
How was that February 5, 2014? Did you get any more offers? What made you choose the University of Buffalo?
Signing day was exciting because I was completing a goal that I had worked a long time for: signing a full ride Division 1A scholarship. I had interest from a few of the Ivy League schools as well, but once I accepted my offer to Buffalo I did not hear from them much.
I chose the University at Buffalo because it had a coaching staff that believed in me, a great academic program for what I was interested in at the time, the opportunity to play football at one of the highest levels, and a free education.
4.- You came under the command of Jeff Quinn and left with another captain on the ship, Lance Leipold. In two years, three coaches, since Jeff Quinn was fired and replaced on an interim basis by Alex Wood.It seems like there were troubled times in college.
How did you live it? What experiences do you keep from each of the coaches you had in Buffalo?
Going through a bunch of different coaches was difficult and sometimes it felt like I was fighting an uphill battle but I also know that is part of the nature of Division 1 football. Every coach had a different style and outlook on how to be successful and I just tried to learn as much as I could from each one.
5.- After two years in Buffalo, being the first Redshirt and sharing the second with Joe Licata, Tony Daniel, Tyree Jackson and Collin Michael in that position.
What led you to return to Canada? What made you join the Mustangs at Western University?
I decided to stay and compete in the spring of my second year because I felt like I was in a good position to win the starting quarterback job. After having a great offseason and spring camp I felt like I had done everything I could to win the spot. After hearing that they were continuing the competition into the fall and that there was a tie between three of us, I decided that there may be better opportunities for me elsewhere as well as another coaching staff that believed in me more.
That’s when I decided to transfer to another school. Western was one of the best academic schools in Canada as well as one of the most historic football programs so when I heard they were looking for a quarterback it seemed like the best fit for me.
6.- Since you were in St. Andrews, the WU already had their eyes on you. You went back to Canada some time later. You came to the Mustangs more mature and eager than ever, ready to get the position released by Will Finch.
You noticed the change from Buffalo to WU? Did Coach Marshall convince you to play for him?
There was definitely a change because every program does things differently. On top of that, I was going from American rules back to Canadian rules so I needed to get used to those again.
Then you have things such as a new academic program, a new offence, new teammates, etc. that all takes getting used to. Coach Marshall was definitely one of the reasons I chose Western because not only is he one of the best coaches I have ever had, but he is also one of the best people I have ever had the privilege of being around. He was a huge mentor for me and I was blessed to get the opportunity to play for him.
7.- Champion of the 53rd Vanier Cup and of the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy of that final, it has been seen how your game has evolved until you achieve the most important award in the Canadian university football, the HEC Crighton Trophy, just like the former Western students Andy Fantuz or Tim Tindale that came to play for the Bills for three seasons and withdrew due to injuries.
What memories do you have of the Vanier Cup? What does it mean to have won the HEC for you?
My memories from the Vanier Cup that we won in 2017 are some of the best I have. I can still recall almost every play in detail because of how amazing the game was. Being able to lift the Cup with that team was the best feeling in the world because we were such a tight-knit group.
Winning the Hec Crighton was definitely special as well and I would put that as my second favourite memory next to the Vanier. Being recognized for all of the hard work I put in felt like a very fitting way to end my university football career.
8.- The CFL had many great quarterbacks in its history: Dieter Brock, Damon Allen, Ron Lancaster and of course, Doug Flutie, Warren Moon and Anthony Calvillo.
What do these quarterbacks mean to you?
Watching all of the great quarterbacks of the CFL growing up was amazing because everyone was unique. I tried, and to this day still try, to take as much from each one as I can because as a quarterback you can never stop learning.
9.- Without a doubt Anthony Calvillo for many is the CFL player par excellence, both as a player and as a person.
What do you think of a player like him? And about the person?
Anthony Calvillo was one of my favourite quarterbacks to watch while I was growing up because I think the true test of a great quarterback is being good over the course of a long career.
Knowing he played 20 seasons and went to eight Grey Cups tells you all you need to know about the player that he was.
Whenever you hear about him all you hear is what a great leader he was and how his team loved to rally around him. I was fortunate enough to have met him at the Vanier Cup ceremony not too long ago and he was extremely humble despite all of his accolades and success throughout the years.
10.- You have signed for LG Oled Las Rozas Black Demons.
Is knowing a new culture one of the things that attracted you to sign for the Black demons? What are the other reasons?
I am definitely excited for a new culture in a new part of the world because I know it will be a great experience all around.
The Black Demons attracted me because they are putting their full faith in me to come help them win a championship. It seems like a great organization that prides themselves on being more like a family than anything. In my experience, the best programs are often the ones where the players have each other’s backs and everyone trusts each other no matter what. Those are the feelings I got about the organization before signing and is what really attracted me to them.
11.- In Spain, Football is dominated with an iron hand by the Badalona Dracs. The Dracs who have won both the last four Spanish cups and the last four leagues. I imagine that you will be aware of your new team and their new incorporations.
Do you think you are preparing something very big to dethrone the Dracs? Have you talked to your new teammates? Do you think that your style of play can be easily adapted to what the coaching staff may demand of you?
I go into each week the same way no matter who the opponent is. I am going to prepare starting week one like it is the championship game because that is the nature of football – whoever is more prepared has a better chance of winning.
I have been in contact with a few of my teammates who reached out to me when I signed and I cannot wait to get to Spain and start building on field chemistry with them.
I will be prepared to do whatever my coaches ask of me because I have faith that they will put us in the best positions to win.
12.- Not only Dracs lives football in Spain. There are quite a few other teams in the league wanting to be a real alternative aside from the Black Demons. Having watched Spanish league matches as surely you have done to study the game systems of your rivals.
What do you think of the level of the league? What do you think the league should do to improve that level? How do you foresee the matches in which you play will be?
I think the level of football in Spain is awesome and is getting better every year. My goal is continue to bring the level of play up because that is what the Black Demons are bringing me in to do. I think it will be a competitive season but we will be ready for anyone come week 1.
13.- At Western University you studied Kinesiology, which is a discipline that studies body movement.
What do you think Kinesiology can contribute to sport and more specifically to Football? How can Kinesiology influence the performance of amateur and professional football players?
I think Kinesiology and the study of human movement is massively relatable to sport and football because most often the best athletes are those that are the most efficient in their movements while still generating the same speed and power as the opponents.
As football players we are constantly trying to better our bodies in order to gain an advantage over our opponents and kinesiology can help with that by helping with training techniques, injury prevention/management, nutrition, and wide range of other things.
14.- Thank you Chris for your kindness and full availability for this interview. Is there something you want to say? Can you dedicate a few words to our readers?
A big thank you to my family (Peter, Susan, and Alexandra), for their continued support along my journey. Another thank you goes to my agent, Fred Weinrauch, who continues to help in my pursuit of playing football at the highest level.
Thanks to Chris Merchant for his full willingness and to LG Oled Las Rozas Black Demons for having made all possible facilities to achieve this interview. From Spanishbowl we will be attentive to his trajectory in this season that begins shortly.