LOS ANGELES — TCU senior running back Emari Demercado does not regret his path to the national championship game.
Demercado’s breakout performance may not have happened until his second-to-last college football game, but he’s glad he never gave up, in part due to the constant support, motivation and inspiration from Downey High football coach Jack Williams.
“Jack Williams is honestly like a father figure to me,” said Demercado, a 2017 Downey grad. “He’s instilled so much into me. He’s really changed my life, just being able to reach out to him for advice. He’s always there for me, going through high school literally changed my life. If I would not have met him, I don’t know where I would be today … he’s someone I’ll never forget and I’ll forever cherish our relationship.”
TCU running Emari Demercado grew up in Inglewood, about 5 minutes away from SoFi Stadium. @Money_E3 credits Downey high school football coach Jack Williams as one of the people who changed his life through support, encouragement and mentorship. @dvikesfootball @jwilliamsdhs pic.twitter.com/DFMRUD2lUB
— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) January 8, 2023
After five years at TCU, Demercado’s 45th game was one for the history books.
Demercado pulled off a 69-yard highlight-reel run and finished with a career-high 150 rushing yards and one touchdown on 17 carries in TCU’s 51-45 win against Michigan on New Year’s Eve in the Fiesta Bowl.
It was his first game with more than 100 rushing yards.
“I think I’ve always known what I was capable of,” Demercado said. “So to finally be able to put it on display was something special for me. The world might not have known, but I’ve always known what I’m capable of.”
Demercado, an Inglewood native, grew up five minutes down the street from what is now SoFi Stadium.
“If I walk to the end of my street, I can see the stadium,” Demercado said. “To be able to grow up here, have my whole childhood here, leave go to Texas and be able to finish my college career back here is almost like it’s scripted.”
The 5-foot-11, 210-pound running back, who calls himself a “late bloomer,” didn’t have any Power 5 Division I offers out of high school. With honor-roll level grades, instead of accepting a scholarship to Cal Poly SLO or UC Davis or playing for Army or Navy, he chose to play one year of junior college football at Saddleback College, before earning a scholarship to TCU in 2018.
“I was extremely happy for him (when TCU won the Fiesta Bowl) as his path here hasn’t been the easiest,” said Williams, who coached Demercado as a junior and senior in high school. “He just kept his head down and grinded, patiently waiting his turn.”
Demercado said weekly film sessions with Williams and words of encouragement have meant the world to him since enrolling at TCU, especially when he considered entering the transfer portal because of a lack of playing time before his senior year when Sonny Dykes became the team’s new head coach.
“That’s another thing (Williams) instilled in me, always trying to find ways to be better,” Demercado said. “He’ll always tells me in the middle of a workout if I’m super tired, ‘Be great, be great. I thought you wanted to be great.’ It’s those kind of things that keep me motivated if I’m ever feeling down. I just think about those things. At one point, I texted him, ‘I need 10 motivational things I can just look back on.’ Just having (people) like that behind me is a great motivation.”
Williams said Demercado has always been mature for his age. That’s evidenced by the fact that Demercado has already earned his bachelor’s degree in economics and his master’s degree in business analytics.
“He could have easily transferred out when he wasn’t getting a lot of reps, but wanted to stay to prove to himself he can do this,” Williams shared. “He didn’t run from it or make excuses. He said he just needed to get better, so every break he had when he was home, he was with me working on his trade.”
TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, the younger brother of USC football head coach Lincoln Riley, is also impressed with Demercado’s work ethic.
“Emari has been one of the most important pieces for us offensively. He really has. He was one of the biggest surprises for us in spring football,” Riley said. “He was a guy … ‘This kid has really got something to him.’ He’s productive. He’s smart. So for him to have the year that he’s had, being the two-headed monster in the backfield with and Kendre (Miller), he’s a huge piece for us and obviously the breakout game last week for him was huge and it couldn’t have happened for a better kid.
“But he’s ready whenever his number is called, the kid’s going to be ready no matter what. We’ve got a ton of confidence in Emari.”
At Demercado’s lowest moments, he never could have imagined he would ever get to play a football game at SoFi Stadium.
“Definitely not. At my lowest moments, I was just thinking about really leaving (TCU) honestly. I’m not happy here, I want to go somewhere where I can have an opportunity to play, but when the new coaching staff came in, it was a new opportunity for me,” Demercado said. “I prayed on it and it felt right. I talked to the coaches. Coach Dykes was like, ‘We’d love to have you back.’
“It was a fresh slate. I didn’t have any predetermined judgments about me. It was nothing else for me to lose. It was my last year, so why not go all out?”
Riley said Demercado is the prime example of someone who is always ready when his number is called.
“He’s just one of those guys that’s mature. He has a lot of professionalism about him, which is going to serve him well in the NFL or whatever he does,” Riley said. “He’s one of those guys that’s going to be successful no matter what. He’s persevered. He’s stayed the course through some ups and downs and I’m really really proud of him.”
TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley on TCU running back Emari Demercado always being ready when his number is called. @Money_E3 is a 2017 graduate of Downey High School. @TCUFootball @InsideSoCalSpts @presstelegram @dvikesfootball @jwilliamsdhs pic.twitter.com/RA6SPvY6Ix
— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) January 7, 2023