Whitney Mercilus, chosen No. 26 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, is going to try and help the Houston Texans forget about the loss of star defense lineman Mario Williams in free agency.

The former University of Illinois phenom is eager to be a part of the Texans, who reached the playoffs for the first time in the team's history last year.

I'm super excited, Mercilus told the Houston Chronicle. I can't wait to be part of the Houston Texans' system. It's unbelievable. I'm looking to learn (but) to contribute right away.

Mercilus was a beast at Illinois and recorded career highs in tackles, sacks, tackles for a loss, quarterback hurries and forced fumbles during the 2011 college football season. He led college football in sacks last year, bringing the quarterback to the ground 16 times.

Whitney Mercilus described his game as a hybrid of rushers Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers. If he lives up to that description, the Texans and their fans have much to be excited about.

The only criticism of Mercilus is that before his breakout year in 2011, his play was not at a high level.

I just became more astute about the game, Mercilus told the Houston Chronicle about his improvement. When I got my chance, I was ready to make the most of it.

Mercilus is expected to play outside linebackers for the Texans, according to the Corpus Christi Caller.

Here are five things to know about Whitney Mercilus, the first round pick of the Houston Texans:

  • Mercilus is a native of Akron, Ohio and was a star at Garfield High School
  • Parents are natives of Haiti
  • Majored in community health
  • Was recruited by Cincinnati, Kansas, Michigan State and Purdue but chose to attend Illinois
  • Recorded a career-high nine tackles against Ohio State on Nov. 15