Jan. 3, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -
Quotes from Illinois junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus' teleconference regarding his decision to forgo his senior season and enter the 2012 NFL Draft are below.
"I want to thank the coaches at the University of Illinois, the staff - academic staff, the training staff, the office girls, recruiting staff, Coach Gilmore, Coach Vic and especially Ron Zook - because they played a role of making me into the person that I am. I'm just very ecstatic about having the opportunity to go play at the net level. I want to thank all my teammates because without them I wouldn't have this opportunity."
Did being a focus of opponents next year if you came back factor into your decision?
"It may play a part just a little tiny bit but not a whole lot. To me, I just see that as another challenge and you just have to train harder to beat those double- and triple-teams. Playing in the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl against UCLA, I faced some of those. It's just another barrier to overcome. If I would've come back, I wouldn't have cried about it or anything like that, but I would've looked at it as another steppingstone to improve my draft stock."
What have you heard about your draft possibilities?
"What's out there is pretty much what everybody knows: an early second- or maybe late first-round pick. In talking to Coach Zook, he talked to a few scouts that ne knows in the NFL and they said I would go pretty high in the draft, but what really matters is how I show at the combine."
Did you receive feedback from the NFL?
"Yeah, I got it back but I wouldn't want to disclose that information because it's very conservative with everyone who enters the draft. I've pieced together some information and I feel good about the decision that I've made."
Have you hired an agent?
"No, I haven't officially signed with an agent or anything like that. I'll address that at the appropriate time before things get pretty hot. I've done some meetings but I haven't officially chosen yet."
When did you decide that you wanted to enter the draft?
"A few hours after the bowl, then I talked to my family and called my coaches on Monday. I talked to Tim Beckman, Coach Zook, Coach Vic and Coach Gilmore, basically to talk about my options and get their blessing. I talked to my family and got their blessing and they just want me to finish my degree, and I plan on doing that as soon as possible."
Did the coaching staff change affect your decision?
"With that, I had to look at it in a positive light. Even though I go to the NFL, I would have a new staff to work under. And if I came back, I would have a new staff to play under and a new scheme to play in. this was an opportunity for me to help my family out and I talked it over and I felt like my stock may not be as high next year, so this was my best opportunity."
Will you go train somewhere in preparation for the draft?
"Yes, yes. I plan to go train somewhere to get prepared for the combine. Most likely, it's going to be Athletes' Performance in Arizona."
Did your family play into your decision?
"Definitely. I just know how hard my parents work and everything. They've broken their backs to put food on the table and put clothes on my back and for my brother and my sister. Growing up and knowing where we came from - from nothing, basically - and I see it as a way to change things."
Who will be the next breakout player on the Illinois defense?
"There's a few players on the defensive line. You've got to watch out for (Akeem) Spence, he's going to be breaking out. Tim Kynard and Glenn Foster, too. And don't forget about (Michael) Buchanan. Just how talented and disciplined they are, they're going to be the next big thing."
Are you back at home? Are you doing a big announcement at your high school?
"I'm back in Akron, Ohio. No, I'm not planning on doing anything like that. Just keeping it plain and simple, just getting the word out about what I plan to do with my future. Not do anything flashy or anything like that, just keep it straightforward."