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Friendly Off The Field: How Whitney Mercilus Is Changing The Game

The ten-year linebacker is cooking for a cause.

Houston Texans v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

There is not a lot to celebrate about this Houston Texans season, on or off the field.

After the shenanigans the offseason produced from Jack Easterby’s unknown role in the organization, to the drama surrounding general manager Nick Caserio’s hire and the disturbing news about the 22 sexual assault civil lawsuits filed against Deshaun Watson, there has not been a lot to cheer about in Houston when it comes to football.

On the field, the product is not much better. After a surprising Week 1 victory, the team has lost four straight and seen starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor go down with an injury, a feeling that is far too familiar for the journeyman quarterback. The players on the field feel foreign since most of them joined the team during the treacherous offseason, but they give it their best week in and week out.

It seems like just yesterday when J.J. Watt picked off Andy Dalton in the playoffs, and Arian Foster and Andre Johnson gave the city of Houston a reason to celebrate. And T.J. Yates was leading us to heights we never knew were possible.

Foster, Johnson and Yates are long gone, but Watt stayed on board through the years and it felt like he would be a Texan for life. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

When Watt was released after ten seasons, Whitney Mercilus became the longest-tenured member of the Houston Texans, who is now suiting up for his 10th season with the team.

Watt was known in Houston not just for his effortless ability to find the quarterback, but also for his charitable efforts with his own foundation, The J.J. Watt Foundation.

Back in 2017, Watt raised over $37 million for Hurricane Harvey victims all over Houston and the surrounding areas and would be awarded with the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in February 2018.

Later that year, Mercilus would be the team’s nominee for the prestigious honor.

Mercilus and Watt have a lot in common and have had extremely similar career paths.

Both spent their first ten seasons in Houston, stand atop the franchise record book for most sacks, and were nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year after their seventh seasons.

And both should be admired for their philanthropy in the Houston area.

Watt was among the 40-plus Texans players to move on from the team after a disappointing 4-12 record in 2020, and they were replaced by a boatload of veterans who signed one-year deals in hopes of extending their NFL careers.

It’s difficult for new players to interact and give back to the community, especially in a world where COVID-19 still makes life abnormal.

Luckily, Houston has Mercilus to fill that philanthropic void for the city. Mercilus’ organization, the WithMerci Foundation, provides advocate services and support to families of children with disabilities and special needs.

Every year, Mercilus looks to spotlight a specific disability to raise awareness and raise money towards helping families affected. In the past, the WithMerci Foundation has highlighted disabilities like aphasia and apraxia and partnered with various organizations that assist with providing families support for autism, but in 2021, the foundation has made the effort to highlight Prader-Willi Syndrome.

PWS is a rare genetic disorder that affects growth and development, found in one out of every 15,000 births. Children that are born with PWS suffer from poor muscle tone and struggle to grow in the first few years of life. However, once they become a toddler, they build up an appetite to feel hungry every moment of every day, which leads to childhood obesity. Most people with PWS need 24/7 care for their entire life and are unable to live independently.

Former “Big Bang Theory” actress and current “Jeopardy!” host Mayim Bialik wrote a dissertation on PWS during her time at UCLA and explains the disorder in the video below.

In order to help raise funds to PWS, Mercilus is hosting his annual fundraiser, “In The Kitchen With Whit” on November 1. The event was originally called “Dine With Merci” but changed last year following the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the second year of “In The Kitchen With Whit,” Mercilus is going head-to-head with teammate Justin Reid in a friendly competition of who can cook up the best meal in the kitchen.

And at the end of the day, even with all of the negative energy surrounding the Texans, there is still something positive to come out of it. Without the Texans, Mercilus would not have his platform to raise awareness for causes that so desperately need it and he would not have the community’s backing.

It’s easy to forget during football season because we are so caught up in the moment with wins and losses, who is playing, who is sitting and who I need to start in my fantasy football lineup this week.

When you wake up in the morning, football is just a game, but what it creates can help change the world.

Thousands of families that have benefitted from foundations like the WithMerci Foundation are grateful for the game of football being the vehicle to give them the support they need. Those families and people affected by these disabilities don’t care about whether the Texans win or lose on Sundays. They care about keeping their family together each and every day, which is an immense struggle for those battling a disorder that affects every aspect of a family’s life.

And while Mercilus is fighting every day to do his part to help the Texans win, he’s also doing his part to make sure that Houstonians win, especially those who need it most. And that is the most important win that the Texans, both on the football team and in the community, will get this year.

To learn more about Prader-Willi Syndrome, visit https://www.pwsausa.org/. To donate to the WithMerci Foundation, head over to https://www.withmerci.org/donations and to purchase tickets to the “In The Kitchen With Whit” event, head to https://www.withmerci.org/in-the-kitchen-sponsorship-form.