Whitney Mercilus, an Akron native and Garfield graduate, finally knows where he’ll begin the next chapter of his life.

The Houston Texans selected Mercilus with the 26th overall pick of the NFL Draft.

Mercilus had only two starts and two sacks during his first two seasons as a defensive end at the University of Illinois before rising to prominence last year as a junior.

The 6-foot-3, 261-pound Mercilus catapulted himself into the first round of the draft by leading the nation with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles during his final season with the Illini and impressing teams in the pre-draft process.

After last season, the draft advisory board gave Mercilus a third-round grade. Still, Mercilus decided to declare for the draft because he said he wanted to help his Haitian-immigrant parents financially.

On Thursday night, a dream became a reality for Mercilus and his family.