Football’s Niko Mermigas ’21 and Seth Walter ’21 chase NFL hopes at Dartmouth’s 2022 Pro Timing Day

After winning the 2021 Ivy League Football Championship, Mermigas and Walter trained on campus for 12 weeks in preparation for the Pro Day.

by Caroline York | 4/8/22 2:05am

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Seth Walter sacks Yale's Nolan Grooms.

Source: Courtesy of Seth Walter

On April 5, Dartmouth hosted the 2022 Pro Timing Day for draft-eligible players. Seth Walter ’21 and Niko Mermigas ’21 — both of whom played for Dartmouth this past fall season — as well as Nigel Alexander ’20, Caylin Parker ’20, Isiah Swann ’20 and University of New Hampshire’s Evan Horn all participated in the event.

A scout from the New England Patriots came to see the players and conduct drills and measurements. The day was also captured on film for scouts from other National Football League teams who did not attend the event in person.

Both Mermigas and Walter decided to take a fifth year at Dartmouth, which was made possible by NCAA and Ivy League changes in eligibility due to COVID-19. Both players competed in their freshman, sophomore, junior and fifth year football seasons, graduating in fall of 2021.

“The extended eligibility gave me the chance to take a fifth year, and I was not ready to quit football yet,” Mermigas said. “I knew we had a really good team coming back with some great guys,so it really all lined up perfectly to be honest.”

Walter, a defensive end, has steadily improved over his time at Dartmouth. From playing for the junior varsity squad his freshman year, he played in five games his sophomore year and started in seven games his junior year until suffering an injury. In his final year at Dartmouth, Walter was named to the 2021 Phil Steele FCS All-Ivy League Defense Third Team.

Mermigas, a safety, has been a star for Dartmouth since his freshman year, when he was one of two newcomers to play in six games. In his junior year, he was selected for the Phil Steele All-Ivy League Defense Third Team before being chosen for the All-Ivy League Preseason Team during his senior year — but the season was canceled due to COVID-19. He was named to the Preseason All-Ivy First Team during his fifth year.

To train for the pro day, Mermigas and Walter devoted 12 weeks to strength and conditioning training led by Dartmouth strength and conditioning coach Spencer Brown. After winning the 2021 Ivy League Football Championship, Mermigas and Walter took a brief break to recover from the taxing season, as both had significant injuries. Following the break, they focused on strength and speed training. 

Both players emphasized how important it was for them to maintain a strong mental state during the 12-week period, pointing to head coach Buddy Teevens ’79, Brooks and secondary/special teams coach Sammy McCorkle as not only being strong coaches but also morale supporters.

“The coaches were there for our mental health and mental support as we went through something as stressful as this [Pro Day],” Mermigas said. “Confidence can become an issue, and they reaffirm what we’ve done in the past and what we can do in the future.”

The morning started for Mermigas, Walter and Parker with Wonderlic: a cognitive ability test used by the NFL Scouting Combine to assess problem-solving skills. Afterwards, arm, hand, wingspan, height and weight were measured for all six players.

The players then completed the bench press and vertical jump, with Mermigas and Walter completing 14 and 19 repetitions of the 225 lbs. respectively. In the vertical, Mermigas jumped the highest mark of the day of 38.5 inches and Walter 31 inches. Over 50 former teammates, Dartmouth classmates, coaches and support staff eagerly watched the five former Big Green players and lone UNH player begin their attempts to play in the NFL.

The players then moved to Graham Indoor Practice Facility for the remaining drills. A buzz of excitement circled the facility as the players passed footballs with their former teammates.

In the broad jump, Walter jumped 9.4 feet and Mermigas had the longest jump of the players with 10.2 feet. In the 40-yard dash, Walter ran in 4.72 seconds and Mermigas completed his sprint in 4.47. For the 3-cone drill, Walter completed it in 7.30 seconds, while Mermigas clocked in at 7.01 seconds, which was the fastest of the six players. In the pro agility, Walter finished in 4.33 seconds and Mermigas held the fastest time of 4.01 seconds. To finish off the day, Walter ran the 10-yard dash in 1.59 seconds and Mermigas clocked 1.40 seconds.

“In terms of what I did well, I thought that the positional drills were smooth, which is something the scouts look at,” Mermigas said. “The 40 time was probably my best performance with a solid time I’m happy with, while the short shuttle was okay… We got to come out and do what we like, so it was fun.”

Walter has been in contact with the Minnesota Vikings and plans to travel to his home state of Florida’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ facility on April 8 for a workout with the team. Mermigas is on the NFL draft board for the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys. Depending on how his performance in the Pro Day is viewed, Mermigas could be in the position to begin discussions with teams that have shown interest in his talent.

“No one knows how good [Dartmouth Football] is — it’s a secret,” Brooks said. “No one comes up this far to see our players. The Patriots scout Bryan Smith told me that the other scouts are going to be pissed because they missed the chance to see the great performances of Mermigas and Walter.”

Although only one scout came, 10 teams called the Dartmouth football program after Mermigas’ and Walter’s outstanding performances, according to Brooks, including reigning Super Bowl champions the Los Angeles Rams.

“I don’t think Seth or Niko will be drafted, but at least one team will be interested in them [as unrestricted free agents],” Brown said. “You can only go to one team anyway, so you just need that one shot.”

Every year, about 73,000 men participate in NCAA football, but only 1.6% of those players compete at the professional level. Mermigas, Walter, Swann, Alexander, Parker and Horn are all trying to beat the odds and fulfill their dreams of playing in the NFL.

“There are a lot of ups and downs,” Mermigas said. “I often ask myself whether I should be getting a desk job and be a responsible adult or should I be here wasting a little more time because I only have so long to play sports… It's been a whirlwind, but I ended the right way for sure.”

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