Ted Merrifield, a senior at Torrey Pines High School, has been selected from a pool of San Diego County student-athletes to receive the 2018 Dr Pepper Most Inspirational Player Award. Ted is being honored for his commitment to the San Diego homeless community, his accomplishments as a multi-sport athlete and for jumping into action to help save a man’s life at the Torrey Pines track last summer.
Ted will be presented with a $2,000 scholarship on the field at the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl on Dec. 31.
“I was kind of stunned,” said Ted, who was nominated for the honor by TPHS football coach Ron Gladnick. “I was honored and grateful for all that he had done for us and I was lucky to have received it.”
Ted is a three-sport athlete at Torrey Pines, playing soccer, lacrosse and, this year for the first time, football. As a junior he captained the soccer team toward the state CIF Championship but decided to try placekicking for his senior year as his father Marshall was a kicker for the Princeton University football team. His father helped teach him the tricks of the trade over the summer.
As a walk-on kicker for the Falcons this year, he averaged 5.7 points per game, the highest in San Diego County. After his second football game ever, Ted was named Athlete of the Week by the San Diego Union-Tribune for his performance against San Clemente, having kicked six extra points, eight kickoffs, a field goal and a successful onside kick. With eight seconds left in the game, Ted kicked a 41-yard field goal to win the game, 47-45.
“My first year playing football was definitely a memorable one,” Ted said. “It was a lot of fun and I definitely couldn’t have done it without my dad.”
In 2016, Ted founded The Other Fellow Inc., a nonprofit to help the homeless community. He was inspired to help San Diego’s homeless population, the fourth largest in the country, by his older brother and father’s service work.
“My mission was providing employment opportunities for homeless,” Ted said, figuring if he could help get people jobs it could go a long way toward getting them off the street.
He worked to connect homeless with potential employers through hosting six job fairs over the course of a year and a half with the help from San Diego nonprofits Alpha Project and PASS.
“It was a really cool experience,” said Ted, who worked with hundreds of homeless people at the job fairs. “I got to hear the stories of a lot of individuals and how they ended up on the streets. I helped four guys get jobs, which seems like a small amount but to be able to help four people is huge.”
One man he helped was a boat repairman who had fallen on hard times in Las Vegas and moved to San Diego. When he was unable to find work in San Diego, he became homeless for a year and half. The man was one of Ted’s success stories, as he was able to connect him with a local ship builder and find him a job.
“It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life,” Ted said of his work with The Other Fellow Inc.
Something else that Ted will remember for the rest of his life is what he said is the most bizarre day he ever lived: the afternoon of July 2 when he helped saved a man’s life.
Ted had gone to the Torrey Pines field that afternoon to work on his kicking with a coach and a younger player. He was there for about 20 minutes practicing while a man, UC San Diego neurologist Michael Grundman, was running laps around the track.
“I noticed him slow down and look tired and then he fell face first onto the track,” Ted said. “It was really scary.”
Ted and the others ran to help and flipped Grundman over, “I knew something was wrong right away because his face was turning blue and he wasn’t breathing.”
Ted called 911 and then started CPR, which he had learned back in the sixth grade but took a refresher course as a freshman in summer camp, “Luckily I paid attention because it really does end up being a useful thing to know,” Ted said.
Fortunately, San Diego Fire Station 24 is extremely close to Torrey Pines on Del Mar Heights Road and within five minutes Captain John Wilson’s Engine 24 crew arrived and was able to take over CPR. Grundman was taken to the hospital and was in a medically-induced coma for 11 days before making a full recovery.
“He could have done the easy thing and stepped back, but instead he chose to jump in and do his best to keep me alive until emergency medical services could arrive,” Grundman said. “It’s always inspiring to hear about someone who saves another person’s life; it’s a different matter altogether when you know that person and that person saved your life. For this, Ted a true hero in my book!”
Ted was able to connect with Grundman about a month later at a dinner party held at the fire station. As Grundman is a Carmel Valley resident, Ted will sometimes see him at the grocery store or back on the track, “We have a life bond,” he said. “Everything worked out that day.”
For his efforts, Ted received a special commendation from the City of San Diego and Mayor Kevin Faulconer in October.
“It reminds you how lucky you are and to be grateful of everything,” Ted said of the experience.
College plans are still in flux for Ted although he knows for sure he wants to venture outside of California and try something new, applying to schools in the Midwest, East Coast and Texas. He is interested in studying finance, targeting schools with great economics and business programs.
Although some have tried to persuade him to pursue a college football career, Ted plans to try and walk-on a soccer team in college wherever he ends up going.
His senior soccer season with the Falcons is just now kicking off, “It should be a really fun season,” said the right wing and forward.