Mercilus is a consensus first-team All-American, leads the nation in sacks and forced fumbles and is second nationally in TFLs.
Jan. 3, 2012
AKRON, Ohio - University of Illinois junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus announced Tuesday that he will forgo his senior season at Illinois to enter the 2012 NFL Draft, which will take place April 26-28 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
Mercilus had a remarkable year for the Fighting Illini, tying Simeon Rice's single-season record and leading the nation with 16 sacks. He also forced nine fumbles on the season, breaking Illinois and Big Ten records and ranking as the second-most in NCAA history. His 22.5 tackles for loss in 2011 led the Big Ten, rank second in the nation and third in the Illinois record book.
Mercilus earned consensus first-team All-America honors, the first Illini to do so since linebacker J Leman in 2007, won the Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end and was named the College Football Performance Awards National Defensive Player of the Year. A 2011 season captain for the Fighting Illini, Mercilus helped Illinois to its second-straight winning season and a victory over UCLA in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. He also led an Illinois defense that ranks in the top-10 nationally in total defense, passing defense, sacks and tackles for loss.
Mercilus is the seventh Illini in the last five years to enter the draft with eligibility remaining. The previous six all were taken in the first three rounds, including three first rounders - running back Rashard Mendenhall to the Steelers in 2008, cornerback Vontae Davis to the Dolphins in 2009 and defensive tackle Corey Liuget to the Chargers in 2011. Illinois has had five underclassmen picked in the first two rounds since 2008, which is tied for the second-most among all schools behind only Alabama's six.
Whitney Mercilus statement:
"First, I want to congratulate my teammates and coaches for a great win against UCLA in the Fight Hunger Bowl - it was a great feeling to get back to winning, especially with a defensive performance like we had. With that said, after a lot of prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided the time is right for me to forgo my senior year and enter the 2012 NFL Draft. I want to thank Coach Zook, Coach Koenning, Coach Gilmore and the entire Illini staff for helping me get to this point. To the entire Illinois community - students, professors, athletic department and fans - thank you for all of your support during my time here in Champaign; these have been some of the best times of my life and I will never forget all that this university means to me. Finally, thank you to my teammates - without you guys, I would not be in the position to make this decision. I have faith that Illinois will rise to the top and I will be there to support you."
Illinois defensive line coach Keith Gilmore statement:
"I'm very proud of Whitney for the amount of work he put in to be in this position. He really matured during the season and became a terrific leader not only for the defensive line, but for the entire defense. Whitney had an incredibly productive season and is a great role model for our other players in doing things the right way and putting in the extra effort. The entire Fighting Illini family wishes him nothing but the best as he moves on to the NFL."
Mercilus Postseason Honors in 2011
Ted Hendricks National Defensive End of the Year Award winner
Bill Willis Defensive Lineman of the Year Award winner
College Football Performance Award National Defensive Player of the Year
Consensus First-Team All-American (AP, FWAA, Walter Camp, AFCA, CBSSports.com, ESPN.com, Phil Steele, SI.com, Yahoo.com)
Bronko Nagurski Trophy Finalist
Bednarik Award and Rotary Lombardi Award Semifinalist
First-Team All-Big Ten (Coaches and Media)