Like LeBron James, Whitney Mercilus was once just a kid from Akron, Ohio.
He's retiring as a 10-year NFL veteran with plenty of which to be proud. Mercilus announced his retirement on Wednesday via a video posted to Instagram.
A three-star defensive prospect out of Akron's Garfield High School, Merclius created an even brighter future for himself at the University of Illinois, emerging as a difference-making edge rusher in his junior season of 2011. That led to a first-round selection and a move from Champaign, Illinois, to Houston, where he'd embark on a decade-long NFL career.
Mercilus never reached Pro Bowl or first-team All-Pro status in his career, but he made a consistent impact with the Texans, averaging close to six sacks per season in Houston and posting a single-season best mark of 12 sacks in 2015. He recorded 345 tackles, including 72 for loss in Houston from 2012-2021, and teamed with 2014 first-overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and future Pro Football Hall of Famer J.J. Watt to form a relentless pass-rushing front that was effective on every down and helped Houston reach the postseason three times in his first five years.
Defense was the name of Houston's game prior to the arrival of Deshaun Watson in 2017, and Mercilus was as reliable as he was effective, appearing in double-digit games in all but two of his 10 professional seasons. He left Houston only once the tide had turned toward an arduous rebuild, being released in October of 2021 before signing with Green Bay.
Mercilus didn't quite reach household-name status in his 10 productive professional seasons, but he proved to be worth the late first-round selection spent on the former Illini star. He'll head off into retirement focused on spending more time with family and helping those with disabilities while continuing to hone his chef skills.
While Mercilus may have walked away from his sport before another famous Akron native, he'll be able to look back with satisfaction on a high-quality decade spent in the NFL.