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First day a whirlwind for Whitney Mercilus


On his very first day as a Texan, first-round draft pick Whitney Mercilus came to Houston with his family, a change of clothes and a smile that could double as a searchlight.

More than anything, Mercilus came with a willingness to compete and help the Texans ascend to heights they've never before reached.

"I'm just ready to get to work," Mercilus said time and again in the 30-minute limousine ride south from Bush Intercontinental Airport to Reliant Stadium. "I can't wait."

Mercilus was nabbed by the Texans with the 26th pick in the first round of Thursday night's draft. After celebrating with family and friends in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, he flew to Houston on Friday morning. Along with his father Wilner, mother Yvrose, sister Glory and brother Donald, Whitney took in the nation's fourth-largest city with wide eyes and an inquisitive attitude.

The Illinois product was especially excited when he saw Reliant Stadium again. He played here in 2010 when the Fighting Illini downed Robert Griffin III and Baylor in the Texas Bowl.

"It's huge," Mercilus said as the limo approached Reliant from the South Loop. "I can't wait to be back in that stadium. Can't wait. Sickest stadium ever."

The outside linebacker took a quick tour of the facilities, then had his photo taken in front of his new locker. He's sandwiched between defensive captain Brian Cushing and inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton, and while he still doesn't have a number, Mercilus is happy to join a defensive unit that finished 2011 ranked second in the NFL.

"Great defense," Mercilus said with a smile. "I'm glad to be a part of it, and I'm just going to learn from the veterans. I've got to step up my game and try and contribute."

After his photo session in the locker room, Mercilus took part in a brief Google Hangout with fans, in which he chatted via a webcam with inquisitive fans from around the country.

Mercilus changed into a suit and tie, went through a press conference with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips by his side and ended the day by meeting Texans coaches and front office personnel.

Mercilus thinks his situation is a "dream come true," as he said he feels fortunate to have been drafted by an ascending team with a ferocious defense. Phillips believes Mercilus will assimilate nicely as a pass-rusher with Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed.

"I can envision, right now, those three guys along with J.J. (Watt) and Antonio (Smith) being in the rush group and one of them dropping and the other four rushing, which gives people problems," Phillips said.

The Mercilus family will return to Akron on Saturday morning, and Whitney said he looks forward to his Houston return in a week or so to start practicing with teammates during organized team activities (OTAs).

College football's sack and forced fumbles leader in 2011 comes in devoid of attitude. He's eager to take his place in the "Bulls on Parade" unit that helped invigorate the Texans' fanbase last autumn.

"I'm here to contribute and be part of something great here," Mercilus said. "They went to the playoffs last year as I understand it. I'll be climbing up the ladder this year to try and help make something great. I'm honored to be a part of that."

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