Garfield football coach Bob Sax went to see Illinois defensive lineman Whitney Mercilus play Michigan a few weeks ago and was able to spend some time with the former Garfield standout.
Mercilus, a junior, is one of the nation’s top college football players this season. He was named Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalist earlier this month and led the nation in sacks (13.5), sacks per game (1.23) and forced fumbles (8).
The Nagurski Trophy winner will be announced Dec. 12.
“I am not surprised at all with the success that he had had this season,” Sax said. “He is a remarkable kid and driven for excellence. He always puts in the work needed to get better. He did the same thing here at Garfield.”
Sax said he expected analysts would be speaking highly of Mercilus during his junior and senior years of college.
“I really believe that if he would stay for his last year he would be a big time player, but it looks like he may enter the draft early,” Sax said. “He said he would consider all of these things after the season is over.”
Illinois is bowl eligible but the program recently announced Ron Zook would not return next season.
Sax said Mercilus is on track to graduate in the spring and only has four classes remaining for his degree.
“I am really proud of what he has done for himself,” Sax said.
Notes: Garfield senior running back/outside linebacker Robert Lyons is receiving a lot of attention from Division II and III college programs, according to Sax. …Garfield is already preparing for the 2012 season. “We are currently in the weight room and are getting ready for next season. Excited to have almost everybody back and looking to compete,” Sax said.