First-round draft pick Whitney Mercilus signed with the Texans on Thursday morning at Reliant Stadium.
Mercilus, who agreed to terms on a contract on Wednesday evening, signed in the Texans' offices in the company of his father, Wilner, and agent, Sean Howard.
"It feels great," Mercilus said immediately after signing. "I finally got it locked up, came to an agreement. It was a long process, no doubt, but being patient, it finally happened, and I'm excited that today's the day."
Mercilus is the Texans' sixth 2012 draft pick to sign. Third-rounders DeVier Posey and Brandon Brooks are the only two remaining who are not under contract as mini-camp comes to a close.
"I tell you what, that's a nice relief for us," Texans general manager/executive vice president Rick Smith said of signing Mercilus. "I think it's in some respects better for (vice president of football administration) Chris Olsen because he's the guy in the trenches doing all contract negotiations, but he does a a fantastic job and again is doing another fantastic job with our draft class. We've got two more guys to get signed, and I'm confident we'll get that done before we go to camp."
This time a year ago, Mercilus had not even established himself as a full-time starter at the University of Illinois. He then exploded as a junior with an NCAA-leading 16 sacks, NCAA record-tying nine forced fumbles and 22.5 tackles for loss, earning first-team All-America honors and leading to his selection as the 26th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
"I was just working out at the University of Illinois and just looking forward to the season, looking forward to become a huge asset to my team," Mercilus said. "I was not thinking of (this possibility) at all. I was thinking of just how can I become a better player and a way to become a valuable player to my teammates and the coaches."
Contract now in hand, Mercilus appears to be well on his way to doing the same in Houston. Texans coaches have said throughout mini-camp and organized team activities (OTAs) that Mercilus' talent is as advertised.
"Going through the practices and everything, it's not slow going, but they throw a lot at you and you've got to process it then go out there and make plays," Mercilus said. "I'm looking forward to just going to training camp and just competing and earning a starting job or just hitting that lineup and rotating with all those other guys."