Today’s interviewee is Calvary Day quarterback Jake Merklinger, whose team is 5-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class 3A. Merklinger has thrown for 7,709 yards in his four seasons as a starter, and Calvary Day is 37-7 in that time but still seeking the school’s first state title. Merklinger also plays varsity basketball and lacrosse for the Cavaliers. He committed to Tennessee in March.
1. Calvary Day lost to Cedar Grove [currently ranked No. 1] in the 2022 quarterfinals. What changes are you and the team making this season to produce a different outcome? “Just trying to work every single day like we’re playing an NFL or college team. Just not taking any day for granted, knowing it will take a year’s worth of work. not one week’s worth, preparing for a good team. So just trying to stay consistent every day and working really hard. We’re doing a better job this year on all of that than last year.”
2. You play three sports. Which do you like best, how do the others translate onto the football field, and do you have advice for athletes looking to do the same? “I’ve always been a three-sport athlete, which is something I take pride in. I love basketball and everything about it. It helps me with vision and keeping my athleticism up throughout the year. Lacrosse is something I started my sophomore year, and I love the physicality of it. Starting up something new that took a little bit to figure out and getting the skills down was really cool. I definitely [rank] football first. I used to play a lot of AAU basketball, and that was my first love, but definitely basketball [second] and then lacrosse. I would definitely say to play multiple sports. I think it’s huge and keeps you active. Obviously, there are times when you want to focus on one sport, but I think it can get a little unhealthy to focus on one. Go out and make new friends and memories. You only get one high school, so don’t take anything for granted.”
3. What are you most looking forward to on and off the field at Tennessee? “It’s a big SEC school and big town. They play in front of 100,000 fans, which was something that’s appealing to me. I’m really excited to get up there and be around the players and coaches in a really cool city with good food and a lot of things to do.”
4. In 2022, you became one of the country’s elite quarterback prospects. What were some things you did to reach that level, and how are you maintaining it this year? “I think one of the key things I did last year was make better decisions, which is something my coaches really helped with, being a better decision maker. I think one of the areas where I went wrong last year was not taking enough chances. So this year I want to take more chances when I get in those big games to trust myself a little more and maintain good decision making.” [Merklinger went from 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a sophomore to 32 touchdowns and two interceptions last season. He has thrown 13 TD passes to one interception this year.]
- Interview by GHSF Daily intern Micahya Costen
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