Oxford native with storytelling legacy creates his own path with NFL Films

Merrick Mccool sitting down for an interview. Photo by Ally Bryan
Merrick Mccool sitting down for an interview. Photo by Ally Bryan

Ally Bryan
Oxford Stories

An Oxford native with a family journalism legacy is gaining recognition for his sports storytelling skills with NFL Films.

Merrick McCool, a University of Mississippi student, works in the camera department for the National Football League’s film and television production company that produces commercials, television programs, feature films and documentaries.

“I think a lot of my childhood memories would center around Ole Miss athletics,” said McCool, a UM School of Journalism and New Media integrated marketing communications student. “That, for one, kind of set me right in a field of athletics, right now, working for the NFL.”

McCool had many hobbies growing up, including theater, music, photography and film. He was involved in film festivals from an early age, and his mother, Leighton McCool, bought his first camera.

“He is our most passionate child,” she said. “He’s so creative. He’s got a great eye, which is what he’s doing with his filmwork now. He’s also extremely musical. At the age of 2, he would sit in the back seat when we would drive over from Atlanta. We would have music playing, and he would be beating on his car seat to the beat of the drum.”

Merrick McCool may have been inspired to become a journalist and storyteller by his grandfather, Curtis Wilkie, a notable author, reporter, and former UM professor.

“Journalism has kind of always been a part of my upbringing,” McCool said.

But it’s something he’s been doing since age 8.

Merrick McCool holding a camera on football field. Photo by Ally Bryan.
Merrick McCool holding a camera on a football field. Photo by Ally Bryan.

“For Christmas that year, he asked for a film camera,” Leighton McCool said. “You know, basically like a director’s camera, like one of those huge, put over your shoulder, kind of cameras. So we bought him a huge one, real expensive at the time, but a nice director’s camera.”

Merrick McCool worked with Oxford High School’s broadcast journalism team as soon as he could, serving as the sports production director and producer.

“There’s a really good journalism program at Oxford High School,” McCool said, “so I was kind of introduced to that at a pretty young age.”

He was co-director of “The Season: Oxford High School.” It won three Southeast Emmy Student Production Awards and received three National Emmy Student Production Awards nominations, according to The Charger online. Two episodes of “The Season” were accepted into the All-American High School Film Festival in New York, screened at the AMC theater on Times Square.

McCool knew he wanted to attend Ole Miss.

“You’re learning a lot from stories and experiences,” he said, “and you’re gaining experience in the school. There’s so many opportunities to do that, so many creative people around you, that it’s just hard not to.”

Attending UM led McCool to his current job in the NFL Films camera department.

“Basically, the idea behind NFL films, when it was created, was to bring Hollywood to football,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know what NFL Films is. There’s an assumption that it’s kind of just football, and there is a lot of football involved with it – obviously, a lot of shooting football games on the weekends. But aside from that, we produce, I wanna say, probably 25-30 TV shows and feature length documentaries, a lot of which are scripted and not 100 percent football-related.”

Through his work, McCool has been given amazing opportunities and experiences, such as working on popular TV shows and meeting celebrities. He even attended the Super Bowl this year in Los Angeles.

His advice to journalism students: Get work experience while you are in school. And you have to love what you do.

“You’ve got to be able to get out and try new things and experience a lot while you’re at Ole Miss, or wherever you’re at doing journalism,” he said. “There’s so many opportunities set forth before you, wherever you are, and so a lot of people just kind of sit back, and they’re like, you don’t think about working until your done with college, but you’ve got to go out and learn things while you’re there that aren’t what your learning in the classroom.”

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