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For Merriman, Much Merriment

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)

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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."

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