ORLANDO, Fla. – A former UCF football player died Saturday morning in a wrong-way crash on State Road 417 in Orange County, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
The FHP confirmed Tuesday that Mike Merritt, 38, was killed in the wreck, which happened around 3:40 a.m. in the northbound lanes of S.R. 417 near mile marker 36.
An FHP crash report stated that Merritt was driving a Ford Mustang south in the northbound center E-Pass lane of S.R. 417 and crashed into a Honda Accord driven by an Oviedo man.
Merritt was taken to a hospital, where he later died, troopers said.
According to the crash report, the driver of the Accord and the driver of a van that struck the Accord were taken to hospitals with injuries.
It’s not known why or how long Merritt had been driving the wrong way on the toll road.
Merritt, of West Palm Beach, played tight end at UCF and was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008 but never played in the NFL.
Mike Sims-Walker, a teammate of Merritt’s at UCF, created a GoFundMe page for Merritt, asking others to help Merritt’s 18-year-old son, who is set to graduate from high school in Palm Beach County in May.
“Mike Merritt Sr. was a devoted father!” Sims-Walker wrote. “He was in the process of saving money up to buy Lil Mike a car who’s a senior in high school and also slated to graduate this spring.”
Kattie Merritt Sherrod is trying her best to keep it all together, but she knows Christmas this year will not be the same without her son.
“I’m going to miss my son. I know Christmas is Christmas, but my son is my son everyday, and I’m going to miss him,” Sherrod said. ”You would have never thought or expected that something like this would have happened to my son.”
Sherrod said she has so many questions about what led up to the crash.
“Michael (knew) this place like the back of his hands, so what would have caused him to go on this highway the wrong way? I don’t know. Yes, they’re going to do a toxicology report,” Sherrod said.
In addition to his son, Merritt also leaves behind a 1-year-old daughter.
“Those kids were his everything,” Sherrod said.
Merritt’s mother added that people are already stepping up and using an Amazon registry to help his daughter during the holiday season.
Merritt’s funeral is planned for Saturday, Jan 7 in Palm Beach County, where he grew up.
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