UMass notebook: RB Ellis Merriweather receives invite to Green Bay Packers rookie mini-camp

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-01-2023 9:23 PM

Ellis Merriweather never took the easy path to the NFL.

The former UMass running back began his college career at Garden City Community College after a standout career at Alpharetta High School in Alpharetta, Ga. Garden City reached the NJCAA National Championship Game in 2018.

Then he joined a UMass program rebuilding under former coach Walt Bell and shouldered the weight of an offense that sputtered without him. Even after battling an injury this past season, the former Phil Steele all-Independent second team honoree received an invitation to the Green Bay Packers rookie mini camp Monday. The camp will convene later this week in Wisconsin.

At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Merriweather ran for 1,828 yards on 410 carries across three seasons and scored eight touchdowns. He caught 31 passes for 217 yards and a score in 26 games. His 2021 season featured 1,138 rushing yards, a UMass FBS record.

NOT LONG SHOTS – Two former UMass players found away to the NFL’s orbit, as well.

Long snapper Evan Deckers, who spent four years as a minuteman, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent Sunday following a postgraduate season at Duke.

The Avon, Conn., native appeared in 53 games and helped kickers convert on 44-of-60 field goals and 154-of-158 extra points. He snapped for 272 punts, 73 of which were downed inside the 20.

Deckers was an Academic All-ACC selection in 2022. He graduated from UMass in December 2021 with a degree in Kinesiology and will graduate from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business in May with a master's degree in management studies.

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Northwestern defensive lineman Taishan Holmes, who was in Amherst for two years following stints at Garden City and Virginia State, received a mini-camp invitation from the Washington Commanders. He posted 12 tackles and half a tackle for loss in six games for the Wildcats.

Holmes appeared in 12 games for the Minutemen.

MOUNT UP – UMass on Monday officially endorsed the Midnights Ride NIL collective, which launched at Saturday’s football spring game and aims to connect football student athletes with name, image and likeness opportunities.

It’s UMass’ third NIL collective following the basketball-focused Massachusets Collective and GoMassNIL, which is geared toward all sports.

The Midnight Ride, founded by alumni Cory Schneider and Tim McDermond, “will aim to provide education and resources on how to effectively build personal brands and will support the University of Massachusetts' award-winning band and spirit groups,” according to a release.

“We greatly appreciate the interest and dedication of the Midnight Ride Collective to organize a robust NIL network to support Massachusetts football,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a release. “Tim and Corey have manufactured an all-encompassing approach to the NIL space for our football student-athletes, by educating them and activating NIL opportunities that will support their experience at UMass. Their approach is forward-thinking, entrepreneurial and will help our program support NIL activities in a cutting-edge fashion.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>