Texans first-round draft pick Whitney Mercilus and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips spoke to the media on Friday at an introductory press conference for Mercilus at Reliant Stadium.
Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips
(opening statement) "As I said yesterday, this guy fits right in the fold of the kind of players that we have here. It's an addition to what we have. It's not to take away from Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin who are outstanding players in their own right. We think this guy fits in and can help with that group immensely. First of all, I think in a three-point stance what he's naturally done in college, I think that's where he'll help us first, but we feel like he can play outside backer. The transition to 3-4 outside backer, we've had a lot of them in the past and just had Brooks Reed last year. This guy, this is the kind of guy that can do it. He's athletic, he's smart, and he plays extremely hard. That's really a key that we like to have on our defense is guys that really get after them. That was one of the things that we look for every year, and this is the guy, one of the best in the college ranks this year. We're really pleased to have him."
OLB Whitney Mercilus
(opening statement) "I'm glad to be here, excited, definitely to be selected by the Texans with the 26th pick. I played in a 4-3 my whole time (at Illinois) with my hand down, but I think I've proven myself to move well in space during the combine and also at my pro day. I'm here to contribute and be part of something great here. 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."
(on what he has envisioned for Whitney in nickel situations and how this group of linebackers compares to San Diego when he had three with 10 sacks each) "Yeah, I think it's a comparable situation. We've got talent. It depends on once we get to playing to see what everyone can do, to see what we do with those guys. I'm never opposed to putting my best players out on the field, especially on third downs. Those guys, we'll come up with some kind of defense that fits our personnel rather than having a certain defense that everybody has to play and you have to play a four-man look and one of your best players is sitting on the bench. I can envision, right now, those three guys (Mercilus, Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed) 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. Of course, you also have (Brian) Cushing in there. I think we'll be formidable that way."
(on what he feels that he has left to prove as a player) "I have to prove that I'm not a one-year wonder. The thing is I got it last year, and when I was given the opportunity to be the starter, I took advantage of it and definitely broke out in 2011. Now, coming up to this level, I feel like I can do the same things and I'm looking to prove my worth and get started right away to prove those negative stereotypes wrong."
(on what it's like for him to rush the passer) "It's enticing, definitely, because I love doing it. When you tell me just to go – don't think, just go – definitely I'm going to get there. No doubt, it's letting the collar loose and chasing after that ball."
(on what he thinks when he hears OLB Whitney Mercilus talk about rushing the passer) "Well, that's what we're looking for and that's why he's here. People talk about 'one-year wonder,' and I know he's heard that a million times already, but if he'd stayed there and played again this year and did the same thing, he'd be a top-five pick. So I don't foresee that he can't do those things; what I saw is that he can do those things, whether it was in one year or playing for five years. We know what he can do and we know the type of person he is and the kind of worker he is, so all those things, the arrow is pointing up."
(on what helped him force nine fumbles last season) "We worked it in practice several times, we do takeaway drills and everything, but when you're in the game, it's just having a knack for it. When the coach tells you, 'We need to get the ball out,' you can't really foresee it coming; it's just a knack you have to have just to get in there and just to knock the ball away."
(on what the day has been like for he and his family) "It's exciting. Everybody's excited, having the family here. They were excited since last night to get the call, and everybody went and booked flights to come out here and just have everybody experience what I'm going through. I'm glad to be here, everybody's excited, definitely a lot of fan appreciation, and I'm glad to meet the coaches and everything and have them (his family) be a part of that and keep it a close family."
(on his initial impressions of the Texans organization) "There's a sense that everybody wants to win here, no doubt, and they selected me here in the first round and they're expecting that out of me, a lot of expectations, and definitely I want to go to work right away and prove that and not fail them in that sense and just go to work."
(on whether he has looked at how his skill set will fit in the Texans defense) "Not a whole lot because I've been training for the Combine and training for individual teams and everything, but I've been keeping up with my workouts with dropping back into coverage, and also doing d-line drills and everything when I had a certain amount of time between travels and everything. So I've been keeping on pace with all my treatments and everything and keeping healthy and just making sure that I'm ready to go from day one."
(following up on OLB Whitney Mercilus' comments) "He'll have a playbook before he leaves here, though."
(on whether reality has set in with him yet) "It was a few days ago and it finally hit me that I was going to be playing at the next level. It's surreal, and definitely it's exciting. I can't believe I'm here now."
(on how playing in the Big Ten helped prepare him for the NFL) "Definitely, playing in the Big Ten, there's a lot of competition there, playing with top guys such as Mike Adams, a highly-touted offensive tackle (from Ohio State) there and other guys. The thing is, playing against that type of competition, even if I did it in one year, to me that kind of does not matter because I feel like I've done it against the best. Now coming into this next level, I'm about to go against the best of the best, and that's what I'm looking forward to."
(on how playing in the Big Ten helped prepared OLB Whitney Mercilus for the NFL) "We saw (DE) J.J. (Watt) really against the same kind of competition last year and he excelled, and now we saw Whitney against the same kind of competition and he excelled in a different way. J.J. was more of a lineman; he's more of a linebacker, but that kind of competition certainly helps you. They've got great players in that league that are all being drafted, or are going to be drafted sooner or later."
(on whether he has spoken with any of his new Texans teammates yet) "No, I haven't. I've seen that they've tweeted me and called me 'the rookie,' so I'm excited to meet them."
(on the Texans veterans meeting rookies) "They can't wait for those rookies to get in, though. They want a free meal, I think."
(on being able to help his family now that he's made it to the NFL) "It means a lot. The thing is, they've worked hard all their lives to put food on the table for my brother, my sister and also myself, and I think of it as a way to return that favor to them and show how much I do love them."