(CBS) Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus announced Tuesday he will enter the NFL draft.

“After a lot of prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided the time is right for me to forgo my senior year and enter the 2012 NFL draft,” he said in a statement.

During his junior season, Mercilus set the team’s record for sacks with 16 and also forced nine fumbles, which was a Big Ten record and ranked second in NCAA history.

Mercilus recorded 22 1/2 tackles for losses, leading the Big Ten and ranking second nationally to earn consensus first-team All-America status.


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