Merriman ended up a Charger only after some tense moments when it appeared that he might be headed to the Vikings at No. 6, the Redskins at 9 or the Cowboys at 11.
When the Vikings hit the clock, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that they had a strong interest in Merriman, which made sense considering that Minnesota plays on turf and defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell prefers a 3-4 defense.
Maryland linebacker Shawne Merriman, right, with family and friends, applauds his selection by San Diego as the 12th pick in the first round of the NFL draft.
(Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
_____ NFL Draft _____ • The 49ers make Utah quarterback Alex Smith, pictured, the first overall selection.
• The Chargers end the wait of the Terps' Shawne Merriman, selecting the linebacker with the 12th overall pick.
• The Rams grab Howard cornerback Ronald Bartell in the second round.
• The Steelers snap up Virginia's top-ranked tight end, Heath Miller.
• Ravens hold their breath, then take wideout Mark Clayton.
• The Bronocs pull a late third-round surprise by taking Maurice Clarett.
_____ Live Online _____ • The Post's Mark Maske will analyze the NFL draft at noon EDT Monday.
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_____ By the Numbers _____ • 2: Players named Alex Smith selected. The 49ers took the quarterback No. 1 overall, and the Buccaneers took the tight end in the third round.
• 5: Players picked in the first round who weigh more than 300 pounds.
• 5: Players picked in the first round who weigh less than 200 pounds.
• 5:47: Duration of the first round in hours and minutes, beating the previous record for longest first round by seven minutes.
• 7: Quarterbacks selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the past eight drafts.
• 10: Underclassmen selected in the first round.
_____ On Our Site _____ • Picks, by round
• Picks, by team
• How the early entries fared
• All-time No. 1 picks
• Look back at The Post's instant analysis in the NFL Draft Journal.
• See how Mark Maske did in his mock draft. (Last published Thursday.)
The Vikings had three minutes remaining on the clock when Merriman's phone started ringing.
Vikings Coach Mike Tice?
Nope, just a friend with a terrible sense of timing.
"Who is this?" Merriman asked, no doubt wondering whether he needed to buy a warm winter coat. "Oh, man, call me later."
Merriman was able to laugh about the mistimed phone call later and he also got a kick out of the idea that his stepfather, Antoine Williams, came to the party with a Dallas Cowboys jersey tucked under his arm. An avid Cowboys fan, Williams was hoping that Merriman would get drafted and play for his team.
"I was ready for it," Williams said. "I only got half of the dream, but that's all right. I'll have to just buy a San Diego jersey."
The good news is that Merriman will be able to afford plenty of gear. Last year's 12th overall selection, Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma, signed a five-year contract worth $10.3 million.
"It just feels so good, I don't really know what to say," Merriman said. "I can't wait to go out to San Diego and get started."