Demers a Go-to Guy for Merrimack
NORTH ANDOVER -- Cody Demers is by nature a forward-thinking person.
So it should come as no surprise that when it comes to attacking a defense, Merrimack College’s redshirt senior slot receiver never takes a step backward, relying on his artistic license to bust the moves that keep him a step ahead of his pursuers in the secondary.
Playing on instinct and whim, the former Central Catholic standout from Dracut has emerged as a chain-moving pass catcher. Merrimack’s multi-talented captain has hauled in 19 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns through two games. Demers heads into Saturday’s contest at Bentley University with the second most catches in the Northeast-10 Conference.
“The biggest thing of playing in the slot, and you even see it at the highest level, is that it’s less about straight-line speed and more about the ability to change direction and create separation,” said Merrimack head coach Dan Curran, a former Chelmsford High standout. “He does an unbelievable job of that, a la Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. He’s very similar in that sense in that he’s able to stop and start and change direction at the drop of a hat.
“He’s turned himself into a very good route runner. He wasn’t necessarily always like that when he got here. What he always did have was great ball skills. He has great balance and could accelerate. But now he’s really worked on his ability to run routes.”
Demers is at his best exploiting matchups and finding openings in the defense.
“A lot of it’s feeling out the defense,” said Demers. “I’m lucky I get to go against linebackers most of the time so I try to run them a little bit. I’m just looking for open spots in the field.
“The speed of the game at this level is definitely something I had to adjust to. Playing here has helped me grow as a player, and, honestly, a person, too. I’ve had to push myself mentally and physically.”
This 5-foot-11, 185-pound bolt of energy has worked his way free to catch 156 passes for 1,694 yards and 12 touchdowns during his collegiate career. He’s also been used by the Warriors (0-2) as a punt/kick returner.
Demers missed the entire 2016 season with a knee (ACL) injury. After going through a rigorous rehabilitation program, Demers returned better than ever in 2017, finishing last fall with 57 catches for 624 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’ve been playing football since I was six years old,” said Demers. “I’ve never had to sit out in my life. Having to sit on the sideline and watch everyone play was tough. It made me appreciate the game 10 times more. The injury motivated me. Every day during rehab the goal was to come back better than ever.”
“What stands out most about him is how competitive he is when it comes to everything that we’re doing,” said Curran. “That’s kind of how all programs are built, finding kids who love to compete and play with a little bit of an edge. You can tell he plays with a chip on his shoulder. I think that’s a big part of his success. No matter what he’s up against, he embraces it and takes advantage of it.”
Despite playing a leading role as a senior on a Central Catholic club that won the Division 1 state championship, Demers wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school. Since arriving at Merrimack his playmaking skills have been on display for all the colleges that decided to pass on him.
“Every time I take the field I feel like I have something to prove,” said Demers. “Not just to the people watching, but to myself. I took it personal that I wasn’t recruited by more schools. I was like, I’m going to go out and show that I can play.”
The work ethic and focus that has enabled Demers to thrive on the gridiron has helped him achieve on an equally high level in the class room. He is two classes shy of earning a degree in civil engineering.
“He’s worked hard,” said Curran. “It hasn’t been easy for him (playing football while working toward an engineering degree). He’s going to do very well when he leaves here.
“But he still has a lot of football left in him. He’s, obviously, having a tremendous year. He’s a key guy for us. He’s a super productive kid. Our offense is run through the slot. We’ve had a lot of good ones here, and he’s certainly as good as any of them.”
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi