BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s been an emotional 24 hours for the UAB Blazers after hearing news that freshman linebacker Allen Merrick died of an accidental gunshot wound in Gadsden.
From the excitement of scrimmaging for the first time in fall camp to disbelief that their teammate and friend, Allen Merrick. is no longer here, UAB’s practice Saturday was filled with mixed emotions.
“It’s been really hard on our team, we were off Thursday night and off yesterday. A lot of guys had already gotten close to Allen,” said UAB head coach Bill Clark.
Merrick’s death is the second one UAB has experienced in three months after another incoming freshman Jamari Smith passed away in May.
“I know both families have faith, but at the same time, it’s hard. We just let them know they’re going to be part of our UAB family forever,” Clark said.
As the Blazers scrimmaged at Legion Field for the first time since last fall, Coach Clark said the energy at practice was still high despite the roller coaster of feelings. He left impressed with the offense’s performance, especially with wide receiver Austin Watkins, who scored a scored a 40-yard touchdown on the first drive of the scrimmage.
“We have different expectations for our offense. We have guys back, we aren’t replacing that many guys, so right there we have big expectations, we have big expectations for Austin, and when a guy goes out, we’ve got guys to step in and get those guys recuperated, they had a good day,” Clark added.
UAB is scheduled to kick off the season at Legion Field on September 3rd, but with the loss of New Mexico State, the Blazers are still looking for a new opponent.
“We’re still looking for a first game opponent out there, other than Miami, if not, we’ll be getting ready to play them,” said Clark.