I think it was sometime in December 2004 when I received my acceptance letter to Mercer University, this little private school in Macon, Georgia. And though the majority of my paternal family lives in the area, I never actually saw the school until I went for a campus tour. It was then when I fell in love. My tour guide, Matt Bland, described Mercer as a quaint and charming school that warmly embraced the uniqueness of its student body as much as the quality of the academic programs. It was the sincerity of his words paired with the atmosphere I observed that confirmed my decision. I knew this was the school for me.
My time at Mercer afforded me so many opportunities and experiences—I met several of my closest friends, gained practical skills that easily converted into five beneficial internships and a job a month after graduating, and joined many service and professional organizations as well as revamping an inactive one my freshman year. As I matriculated, my university strived to provide more for its students and faculty. Buildings expanded as programs flourished and the area around the university became more and more like a college town. Though Mercer's potential was unlimited, we were rarely discussed as often as the other, more prominent Georgia universities. That is until last Friday.
My school became the talk of the entire nation. Duke University, the #3 seed in the South region was defeated by my alma mater. Mercer University's seven point lead turned into a victory that caused bracket chaos nationwide. Guard Kevin Canevari's #NaeNae victory dance was the ultimate zenith of the win that even captured Buzzfeed's attention. And even now, two days later and hours before round two against Tennessee, I am still overwhelmed with emotion. The nation and dare I say the entire world is finally getting a glimpse into something I learned nearly ten years ago: Mercer is freaking amazing.
Once the applause dies down, I hope that people begin to explore the other elements that make this school so great like the dedicated faculty members, the other record-breaking sports teams, the rich education, and the sense of community the campus provides. I would like to imagine that this weekend, a prospective freshman scheduled a campus tour for this spring. They'll walk around the growing campus and hopefully discover what I realized many years ago: Mercer is the school for them.