He came out of nowhere to win the Ted Hendricks Award as the best Defensive End in all of college football. He rose from obscurity to become an All-American at Illinois. Now Whitney Mercilus is a member of the Houston Texans, joining fellow Big Ten alum J.J. Watt of the Wisconsin Badgers as the men who will fill the pass-rushing void left by the departed 2006 #1 overall draft selection Mario Williams.
Mercilus story is an uplifting one. Watch this moving GIF of the celebration at his house when he got the call.
“It’s been an uphill battle and definitely proving my worth, coming off that great 2011 season, and definitely improving my draft stock, through combine, pro day and training for two months in Arizona,” Mercilus said on conference call after getting the big call from Houston.
“And it definitely paid off today.”
With a name like Mercilus, pronounced merciless, you have to be a NFL player. And a player at the very aggressive attacking position of defensive end too- that helps. Illinois Fighting Illini junior DE Whitney Mercilus is just that; a man with a name built for his role like former Illini OL Eric Block, or current Buffalo Bills DB Reggie Corner. Even if the national media were mispronouncing his name. I heard “Mer-silly-us” and “Mer-sal-lus.” (I’m looking at you Charlie Casserly from NFL Network!)
Mercilus led the nation in sacks and broke the NCAA record for forced fumbles in a season.
With his teammate A.J. Jenkins going #30 to the San Francisco 49ers, it marks the first time two Illini have been selected in the first round of an NFL draft since Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice in 1996. Illinois now has 5 first round picks in the last five years, the most in the Big Ten.
“What I did at Illinois definitely is what got me into the NFL, and the thing is being compared to other athletes, Melvin Ingram, Quinton Coples- and what we’ve done allowed us to get to this step, now it’s just a matter of us continuing that on to the teams that we’ve landed on,” Mercilus stated.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
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