When it comes to making one's NFL debut, Whitney Mercilus offers sound advice to rookies.
"Don't be a deer caught in the headlights like my first game," Mercilus said, laughing.
Mercilus, now in his seventh season with the Texans, is referring to his Week 3 game at Denver. The Texans won 31-25, but rookie Mercilus was a bit star struck by a quarterback he grew up watching.
"I was a fan of Peyton Manning and I'm like, do you not see this? This is Peyton Manning that I'm going against right now, but you just can't get caught up in that," Mercilus said. "You've got to be able to understand he's looking out to beat you so therefore, you need to go out there and be a professional and go play the game that you know how to play the game."
Deshaun Watson agrees.
During the Texans-Patriots joint practice at The Greenbrier last year, Watson met Tom Brady for the first time. Little did Watson know, he would be starting the Texans Week 3 game in New England the very next month.
"It's pretty cool," Watson said. "Last year was kind of a surprise, seeing all the athletes that I've looked up (to) and have been watching for a long time, but now I've been through that stage of just kind of being star struck. But, right now the guy that you look up to becomes your rivals at times, and you have to just be able to go out there and compete and try to beat him."
Mercilus has recorded 14 tackles, 10 solo, 4.5 sacks, one pass defensed and one forced fumble through seven games against the Patriots. Last year, Mercilus had a strip sack on Brady that led to a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown by Jadeveon Clowney.
In his first and only game against New England, Watson became only the second rookie quarterback to eclipse the 300-yard passing mark on the road against the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era.
Mercilus offers another key to success that has worked for him over the years.
"Don't think," he said. "One of my problems earlier in my career was just thinking way too much and so now once the lights come on, the games count, you have to be able to go out there and do your job and play fast without thinking."
The Texans will open their 2018 regular season against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Sunday's kickoff is set for 12 noon CT on CBS and SportsRadio 610.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 3/2/2021)