Following Sunday’s conference championship games, the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to compete on football’s ultimate stage — the National Football League’s Super Bowl LVI, set for Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Yet just as the NFL playoffs got into full swing earlier this month, a trio of local youth players devoured their opportunity to play alongside and against some of the top-rated competitors from throughout the country.
Quinn Mercer, Collin Fierro and Jaece Mercer recently competed alongside some of the best youth football talent from throughout the country while playing earlier this month in the 2021 Diamond Sports Group East vs. West Elite All-American games in Bullhead City, Ariz. The 12-year-old Fierro and 11-year-old Quinn Mercer competed in the sixth-grade game for the West, and Jaece Mercer, 10, played for the East squad in the fifth-grade contest.
The trio earned selections to compete among a national pool of elite-level young football talent, many of whom are on the fast track toward potential success on the high school gridiron, and beyond.
Fierro, also noted locally for his skill on the baseball diamond, plays quarterback and wide receiver on offense and has a nose for the football on defense at his linebacker position.
“Before Collin came to play for me in Siletz, I always heard about how great of an athlete he is and how he will push himself to get better with every rep and practice,” youth coach Jeff Sweet said. “Once I met Collin and saw his work ethic and his drive to get better … it is every coach’s dream to have a player like that. His commitment to get better is unmatched.”
Quinn Mercer, a speedster running back/free safety and kick returner, has more than just impressed the coaches he’s played for at home and at national competitions.
“Quinn is the most humble player I have ever coached and knows the game better than most adults,” Diamond Elite sixth-grade Coach Kevin Jackson said. “Watching him play over the years has been incredible. Elusive on the field, he is by far the smartest and mentally strong player on my teams.”
The youngest of the local All-American bunch is 10-year-old Jaece Mercer, a wide receiver/cornerback who doesn’t need much prodding to tell a local reporter about the reputation he gave himself.
“The best hands in Newport,” Jaece Mercer said last weekend with a sheepish grin. “(Fierro) throws to me a lot, and I usually catch them.”
And although the Mercer boys have an experienced youth football coach in the family, the boys’ local coach and the Mercers’ grandfather, E.J. Jacoby, wants others to know that Fierro and the Mercers earned their way into the national spotlight because of their play between the lines, not just because of their connections.
“I coach these kids because I love them, and I believe in them, and they believe in themselves,” Jacoby, told the News-Times. “The thing I want people to know is that these kids actually earned this.
“This didn’t happen because of who they know, and yeah, I’m a national scout/recruiter. I’m really only doing that because Quinn was already being scouted by someone else, and they brought me into the system. It’s not just because they’re my boys, it’s because they earned this.”
Fierro said he’s greatly appreciative of the backing he’s received from the community while competing in local sporting events.
“I’ve got a bunch of support,” Fierro said. “My parents cheer me on and stuff like that in the stands, and usually all the other people cheer our whole entire team on.”
After back-to-back practice days Jan. 15 and 16, Jaece Mercer and the fifth-graders took the field for a late-morning East-West game at the 4,800-seat Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse before the sixth-graders played their East-West contest. Due to COVID-19-prevention measures, only 500 spectators were allowed in the multi-sport facility.
“Really, it’s just a good sport,” Quinn Mercer said about his favorite sport. “All the friends that I play it with support me, and I support them too.
When asked what part of their game they plan to focus on improving after returning from Arizona, each player had the same answer.
“My tackling,” Quinn Mercer said, before his brother and Fierro each said, “same.”