Shawne Merriman dreamed of becoming either a professional football player or a professional wrestler while growing up in Upper Marlboro.
While his NFL dream was completed with his retirement last year, his wrestling dream is on its way to becoming a reality. These days, Merriman also keeps busy between his responsibilities as a football analyst and the work he is doing to help grow his "Lights Out" apparel and accessory line.
"When people say they're living a dream, it feels like that," said Merriman, who was a first-round pick of the San Diego Chargers in 2005 after a standout college career at Maryland.
Merriman spends much of his time working for the NFL Network, where he said he serves as an analyst three to five days per week. The three-time Pro Bowl selection also has served as an analyst on the WWE Network, and he remains in talks with the WWE about joining the company as a wrestler.
"It's still a very big possibility that that might happen," Merriman said in a telephone interview.
Merriman, 30, still works out anyway — usually about 90 minutes each day, he said — and he also does wrestling-specific training in case he receives an opportunity with the WWE.
"It's a lot of work," Merriman said of professional wrestling. "It's a lot of training that goes into it, and I'm looking [into] several different ways to open up another chapter of my life."
The next chapter, though, will be Merriman's work with the Big Ten Network, which he will balance with his NFL Network position and any opportunities that may arisewith the WWE. Merriman said he'll start Thursday with the Big Ten Network, where he will provide analysis of the Terps and other teams in the conference
"Initially, I didn't get it," Merriman said of Maryland joining the Big Ten. "I didn't understand the move — being in the [Atlantic Coast Conference] for so long and, all of a sudden, going up to the Big Ten. But then it dawned on me that it made a lot of sense — not just financially, but I think for the University of Maryland, it will be a lot better getting guys to stay home, the recruiting."
The competition in the Big Ten is likely to be greater than it was in the ACC, but Merriman said he thinks Maryland has the pieces to be successful in its first year in the new conference.
"I really believe they could go 8-4 or something like that," Merriman said. "I really expect them to do well early during the season. They might have a slip up or something like that. But also, I think on the backend, you look at Rutgers, and some of those games on the backend they should win as well."
Merriman said he is looking forward to watching star wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and he mentioned senior nose tackle Darius Kilgo as another player who is "going to have an outstanding season."
"They have some really, really good players," Merriman said. "I don't think they're at where they need to be at team-wise, but they're starting to get some really big recruits to commit, and I'm really excited about some of the single-position players that we have there."
But while Maryland tries to grow in the Big Ten, Merriman also continues to grow his Lights Out brand, which he said he is heavily involved in despite his other responsibilities. The company focuses on selling workout apparel and accessories.
Merriman said he began selling Lights Out gear as early as his sophomore year at Maryland, in 2003, and he said he has come up with the ideas for designs and projects since the company officially launched in 2005.
"It's growing, man," Merriman said. "It's growing. I'm excited."