Shawne Merriman
Merriman during his tenure with the Chargers
Personal information
Date of birth: (1984-05-25) May 25, 1984 (age 36)
Place of birth: Washington, D.C.
High School: Upper Marlboro (MD) Douglass
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) Weight: 261 lb (118 kg)
Career information
College: Maryland
NFL Draft: 2005 / Round: 1 / Pick: 12
Debuted in 2005 for the San Diego Chargers
Last played in 2012 for the Buffalo Bills
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Tackles     257
Sacks     45.5
Pass deflections     16
Interceptions     1
Forced fumbles     8

Shawne DeAndre Merriman[1] (born May 25, 1984), nicknamed "Lights Out", is a former American football player who played in the National Football League (NFL) from 2005 to 2012. He was among the top linebackers in the National Football League (NFL) in his first three seasons with the San Diego Chargers, where he was a three-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection.

Merriman was drafted 12th overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 2005 NFL Draft. He earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in his first season and recorded 39 12 quarterback sacks in his first three seasons. He was hampered by injuries his next three seasons, and the Chargers waived Merriman midseason in 2010. He was acquired through waivers by the Buffalo Bills that season, but he only played minimally with the Bills due to continued injuries. He was released by the Bills before the 2012 season before they re-signed him mid-season.

In 2006 during his second NFL season, Merriman was suspended for four games after testing positive for steroids. He blamed the test results on a tainted dietary supplement, which he never identified.

Early lifeEdit

Merriman grew up in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. He earned his nickname "Lights Out" at Frederick Douglass High School, where he rendered four opposing players unconscious in the first half of one game.[2]

Professional careerEdit

San Diego ChargersEdit

2005 NFL DraftEdit

Merriman was drafted in the 1st round (12th overall) in the 2005 NFL Draft out of the University of Maryland by the San Diego Chargers. He was selected using a pick acquired from the New York Giants as part of the Rivers-Manning trade during the 2004 NFL Draft.

The Giants traded Philip Rivers (selected 4th overall in the 2004 Draft), and their 1st round selection for the following year (amongst others) for the rights to sign Eli Manning, who had been selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 1st overall pick that year. Manning had made it clear he was not interested in playing for the Chargers, in a similar fashion to John Elway in 1983 when selected by the Baltimore Colts.

The Giants draft pick ended up being the 12th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. The Chargers used that selection to take Merriman.

On August 1, after a long holdout period, Merriman signed a 5-year, $11.5 million contract that included $9 million in guarantees and $4 million in incentives.[3]

2005 seasonEdit

Merriman started off his 2005 rookie year on the inactive list and completed a 10 day hold out from training camp. He did not break the starting lineup until week 7, but recorded 6 sacks in his first 4 starts. He was voted into the Pro Bowl as an OLB after playing the position for the San Diego Chargers in their 3-4 defensive scheme which is the same position he played at the University of Maryland. Merriman's best game of the year came in week 15 when the Chargers handed the Indianapolis Colts their first loss of the season.[4] Merriman recorded 2 sacks and 2 tackles for a loss, one of which stopped Peyton Manning for a 6 yard loss on 4th and goal. It was during this game that Shawne Merriman garnered much national media coverage and in the following week made the Pro Bowl.

On January 4, 2006, Merriman was awarded with The Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He received 2812 votes of a panel of 50 NFL sportswriters and broadcasters. He beat Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who received 1612 votes, Cincinnati linebacker Odell Thurman, with 4, and Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware, with one. On February 12, 2006, Merriman participated in the 2006 NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii. Although in a losing effort, Merriman made 3 tackles and forced one fumble. "I enjoyed myself the whole entire week", said Merriman. "I topped it off today by playing the entire game with all the guys I grew up watching. It's going to be my first of many if I just keep working hard."

2006 seasonEdit

File:Shawne Merriman 2006-10-01.jpg

On October 22, 2006, reports were made public by CNN that Merriman would face a 4-game suspension for violating the NFL's steroid policy.[5] ESPN's Chris Mortensen cited a source that claimed the suspension was "definitely for steroid use and not a 'supplement-type' suspension." Mortenson's report later came under scrutiny from Merriman's attorney, David Cornwell, who called the report "irresponsible and erroneous." Under NFL league policy, no player's suspension proceedings are to be announced before the suspension takes place. Subsequently Cornwell stated that he believed the substance his client tested positive for was the anabolic steroid nandrolone, and that Merriman claimed it must have been in a tainted nutritional supplement he took regularly.[6] Merriman never identified the supplement.[7]

The incident led to the passage of a rule that forbids a player who tests positive for steroids from being selected to the Pro Bowl or winning any performance awards in the year in which they tested positive. The rule is commonly referred as the "Merriman Rule".[8][9] However, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has tried to distance the policy from being associated with the player, stating that Merriman tested clean on 19 of 20 random tests for performance-enhancing drugs since entering the league.[10]

At the start of his 2006 season after the 4 game suspension, Merriman again began his season with success, recording 3 sacks and an interception in his first 2 games. Merriman went on to record 8.5 sacks and make ESPN's midseason All-pro team,[11] prior to dropping an appeal against an NFL enforced 4 week suspension due to testing positive for steroids. In the 2006 regular season, Merriman led the league in sacks with 17 while playing only 12 games. He also added 4 forced fumbles to his career (2 against both the Buffalo Bills and the Denver Broncos). Merriman finished third in the balloting for 2006 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year, behind Jason Taylor and Champ Bailey, after having tested positive for using steroids which is against the league's drug abuse policy. Taylor commented that Merriman should not have been considered for the award because of his suspension. Merriman reportedly responded by sending Taylor a "Lights Out" t-shirt and a box of popcorn with a note saying enjoy watching him in the playoffs. Merriman, nicknamed "Lights Out", performed a dance to celebrate each of his 17 sacks in 2006–2009 After the Chargers were eliminated in the playoffs by the New England Patriots that season, members of the Patriots began performing Merriman's "Lights Out" dance on the field in celebration. Merriman's Chargers teammate LaDainian Tomlinson, referred to the act as showing no class and being disrespectful.[12]

2007 seasonEdit

In 2007, he announced that he would no longer perform this celebration.[13] In week 4, however, Merriman performed the dance after sacking Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard. After the Charger's slow 1-3 start to the season, Merriman exclaimed that he decided to do the sack dance again due to the urge of his teammates and to help revive the spirits of the Charger fans.[14]

Merriman finished the season with 68 total tackles, with 54 solo and 14 assisted tackles, performing to his usual caliber by tallying 12.5 sacks. His prowess was shown during the season when it was said that his 9.5 sacks through to week 13 was seen as a decline in performance, a quote to which Merriman took a great compliment.[15] The Chargers finished the season with a loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.

Merriman was named to the Pro Bowl for a third consecutive year. At that point had a total of 39.5 sacks in three seasons.[16] His 39.5 sacks are the most for any player from 2005 to 2007, edging out Jason Taylor by just one full sack. He had also been named First-Team All-Pro in his first 2 seasons, while earning a Second-Team All-Pro selection in his 3rd season.

2008 seasonEdit

File:Shawne Merriman.jpg

During the 2008 training camp, Merriman had difficulty with his injured knee and sat out of practice for over two weeks. Initial reports were that his recovery would take a few weeks, but on August 23, Merriman reported that he had a tear in both his posterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament. He was told by doctors that he could sustain a possible career-threatening injury should he choose to play without having surgery. Merriman withheld his decision whether or not to play while seeking several different professional opinions, including that of well-known surgeon James Andrews of Birmingham, Alabama. ESPN's Mike Tirico in the Chargers' Monday Night Football game that Merriman went to Miami, Florida to get a final opinion on his knee. On August 27, Merriman told Fox Sports that he would go against the advice of the doctors and will try to play through the injury, stating that he simply wants to play and that the career-ending possibilities were "misquoted."

On September 9, it was announced that Merriman would indeed go through with the reconstructive knee surgery to repair his torn knee ligaments and would be placed on the Injured Reserve, missing the rest of the 2008 NFL Season.[17]

2009 seasonEdit

In the 2009 season, Merriman was suffering from a painful foot injury as well as his troubled knees. He had only four sacks for the season.[18]

2010 seasonEdit

At the beginning of the calendar year, Merriman expressed concern that the Chargers may no longer want him, but said that his goal was to remain a Charger if possible.[18] On March 4, 2010, the San Diego Chargers announced that they would place their first and third round franchise tender on Merriman, thus retaining him as a Charger.[citation needed] On August 13, 2010, after two weeks of hold out, Shawne Merriman signed tender and reported to camp.[citation needed]

On October 13, the Chargers announced that Merriman was being placed on injured reserve and, per NFL rules, would be released when he became healthy. Merriman had re-injured his calf against Oakland and has been limited in the first five weeks of the season.[19] Merriman was put on waivers by the Chargers on November 2, 2010. He had only four sacks in his last three seasons in San Diego.[7]

Buffalo BillsEdit

Merriman was claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Bills the day after his release from the Chargers.[20]

On November 10, Merriman suffered an Achilles injury during his first workout with his new team.[21] Subsequently, on November 27, the Bills placed Merriman on season-ending injury reserve.[22] He signed a two-year contract extension worth $10.5 million with the Bills on January 1, 2011. The deal contained $5 million guaranteed, including $3 million of his 2012 salary.[7][16]

On October 25, 2011, Merriman was placed on Injured Reserve list for the second consecutive season after suffering a partially torn Achilles tendon.[16][23] Merriman finished the season with nine tackles and a sack in five starts.[16] During the 2012 offseason, Merriman was moved from outside linebacker to defensive end due to the switch of 3-4 to 4-3. On August 20, the team released Merriman.[24]

Merriman signed a contract to return to the Bills on October 15, 2012.[25]


On March 5, 2013 Merriman announced his retirement.[26]

Legal incidentEdit

On September 6, 2009 Merriman was arrested and charged with battery and false imprisonment. Merriman's former girlfriend, reality TV star Tila Tequila, claimed in an arrest complaint[27] that he choked and restrained her when she tried to leave his home.[28] The charges were dismissed less than a week later on September 11, 2009.[29]

In December 2009, Merriman filed a civil suit against Tequila, alleging intentional interference with contract, unfair competition, and trademark infringement. He claimed that Tequila improperly used his own "Lights Out" logo and disrupted negotiations for t-shirts to be marketed by Wal-Mart.[30] She failed to respond to the suit at all, and a default judgment was entered in his favor for $2 million. However, the default judgment was later set aside in January, 2010.[31] In February, 2010, both sides jointly moved the court to dismiss the claim, and the court dismissed the case on the same day.[32]

Media appearancesEdit

Merriman was featured on an episode of MTV Exposed. On October 10, 2007 Merriman was chosen as the cover athlete for EA Sports' NFL Tour video game.[33] Merriman appears in Keri Hilson's "Knock You Down" music video and made a special appearance at WWE's One Night Stand 2008 on June 1, 2008, where he hit superstar Chavo Guerrero with a Singapore Cane.

Merriman is featured in the Nike Football "Leave Nothing" advertisement.[34] Merriman made a cameo in season 7 of HBO's Entourage. Merriman also appeared on Cartoon Network's Destroy Build Destroy along with Antonio Gates. Merriman appeared on GNC's Athlete Tour 2010 under his MusclePharm sponsorship. Merriman appeared on WGR Sportsradio 550's "Schopp and the Bulldog" in Buffalo, Friday, July 27, 2012. He visited the show's studio at Bills training camp in Rochester, N.Y.

He showed off his tattoos in PETA's "Ink Not Mink" campaign, encouraging people not to wear animals furs.[35]


  1. "Merriman on Pro-Football-Reference". Retrieved 2007-12-20.
  2. "#56 Shawne Merriman". Archived from the original on March 26, 2009.
  3. "Shawne Merriman". 1984-05-25. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
  4. Bell, Jarrett (2005-12-19). "Colts finally taste defeat, begin to regroup". USA Today.
  5. Sources: Chargers' Merriman suspended for steroids Retrieved 18 July 2007.
  6. Chargers' Merriman appeals suspension Report: Chargers' Merriman appeals suspension Monsters and Critics. Retrieved 18 July 2007.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Mortensen (January 2, 2011). "Bills re-sign LB Shawne Merriman". Archived from the original on August 20, 2012.
  8. Chargers LB supports the "Merriman Rule"
  9. Sources: Positive 'roids test to result in Pro Bowl ban
  10. Chargers LB tested clean 19 of 20 times ESPN. Retrieved 9 September 2007.
  11. 2006 All-Pro Team Retrieved 18 July 2007.
  12. Pats' celebration draws ire of Tomlinson, Chargers
  13. Shawne Merriman Halts Lights Out Sack Dance - FanHouse - AOL Sports Blog
  14. Larry Brown. "Merriman Brings Back Lights Out Sack Dance". NFL FanHouse. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
  15. Bernie Wilsonassociated Press (2007-12-09). "Lights on again for sackmaster 'Lights Out' Shawne Merriman | Lubbock Online | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal". Lubbock Online. Retrieved 2010-07-13.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 "Bills release Shawne Merriman". August 20, 2012. Archived from the original on August 20, 2012.
  17. [1][dead link]
  18. 18.0 18.1 Merriman wants to remain a Bolt, January 29, 2010, San Diego Union-Tribune.
  19. "Chargers lose Merriman". 2010-10-13. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  20. "Buffalo Bills claim LB Shawne Merriman off waivers - ESPN". 2010-11-04. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  21. Graham, Tim. "Shawne Merriman hurt in first Bills workout - AFC East Blog - ESPN". Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  22. "Buffalo Bills put Shawne Merriman on IR - ESPN". 2010-11-27. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  23. "Shawne Merriman of Buffalo Bills put on IR with Achilles injury - ESPN". 2011-10-25. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  24. "Shawne Merriman released by Bills after one season". Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  25. "Merriman returns to Bills". Retrieved 2012-10-15-20.
  26. "Shawne Merriman announces retirement from footbal".
  27. Gustafson, Craig (2009-09-06). "Chargers' Merriman arrested; celeb alleges battery". Retrieved 2010-07-13.
  28. "NFL's Merriman arrested, accused of choking Tila Tequila". 6 September 2009. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
  29. Wilson, Bernie (September 11, 2009). "DA dismisses case against Merriman". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
  30. NFL Star Sues Tila Tequila -- She Lied to Ruin Me!, December 10, 2009,
  31. Order Setting Aside Default, Lights Out Holdings, LLC v. Nguyen, No. 09-CV-2742 H (CAB) (S.D. Cal. Jan. 27, 2010).
  32. 'Order Granting Joint Motion to Dismiss, Lights Out Holdings, LLC v. Nguyen, No. 09-CV-2742 H (CAB) (S.D. Cal. Feb. 16, 2010).
  33. [2] Accessed October 10, 2007.
  34. [3] Leave Nothing advertisement on YouTube
  35. "Buffalo Bills DE Shawne Merriman Shows Off His Tattoos To Team Up with PETA in New Ad Campaign," Associated Press, 3 January, 2013.

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