Whitney Mercilus' NFL draft diary

Top defensive end from Illinois plans to do 'everything' at combine

Illinois' Whitney Mercilus is one of the highest-rated defensive end prospects in this year's NFL draft. The first-team All-American and first-team Big Ten performer will chronicle his experience leading up to the April draft for the Tribune.

I have been preparing for the combine for almost two months, and I am ready to fly down to Indianapolis on Thursday.

I arrived in Phoenix to train at Athletes' Performance the first week in January, and have lived in an apartment here since. There are a lot of other draft prospects here, including Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, Alabama defensive end Courtney Upshaw, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen.

I want to show the NFL I am fluid with my movements, and that I have great hips. I heard I was getting knocked on that. I've been doing everything I can here so I'll be ready to show them I can even be an outside linebacker in a 3-4, as well a 4-3 right end. If they want me to do outside linebacker drills at the combine, I will.

I plan on doing everything there. I want to prove to everybody I am that guy to pick up.

I have been working on refining my running style to lower my 40-yard dash time. We're also practicing pro agility drills, the broad jump and vertical jump, and I'm working on my bench press.

I'm shooting for high numbers. In the 40, I want to hit a 4.6, maybe a high 4.5. I'm pretty confident I can achieve that. I've been working my butt off.

In the bench press, I'd like to hit 30 repetitions at 225 pounds, but if I get into the high 20s I'll be fine.

I'm trying to get my weight up to 260 pounds. I'm at 256 now. I started last season at 265, but my weight dropped to 250 as the season went on. I have a high metabolism so I burn a lot of calories. But I can play at 260, no doubt.

I also have been preparing for the interview process with help from my agent Sean Howard. I'm learning how to communicate effectively with coaches during the combine. They have me in media training so I can learn to create a brand and sell myself as a football player.

I also have taken some practice Wonderlic tests so I will be prepared for what's coming.

I know I can be one of the top defensive ends in the draft and I look forward to the chance to show it in Indianapolis.

dpompei@tribune.com
CHICAGO

More