Former Illinois great Whitney Mercilus was named AFC Defender of the Month after registering 5.5 sacks during the final month of the season. The linebacker finished the season with 12.0 sacks, the most during his four-year NFL career. He now has 30.0 career sacks.
In May, Mercilus, the No. 26 overall draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, signed a four-year, $26 million contract extension that guaranteed a reported $10.5 million. Mercilus and the Texans (9-7) host the Chiefs (11-5) in the wild card round of the AFC Playoffs, 3:35 p.m. Saturday.
As a junior at Illinois, Mercilus put together one of the best individual defensive seasons in Illini history, leading the country in sacks (16.0) and forced fumbles (nine). He accumulated just 1.0 sack in each of his first two seasons before becoming a consensus First Team All-American and winning the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation's best defensive lineman.
The only Illini products with more career sacks in the NFL are Simeon Rice (122.0 sacks, good for 17th all-time) and Kevin Hardy (36.0).