Whitney Mercilus reflects on retirement, Dodgeball Charity Challenge

Reflecting back on his NFL career, Whitney Mercilus is proud of his legacy and thoroughly enjoying his retirement.

The 31-year-old retired Texans' outside linebacker is adapting fast to learning new routines outside of the game of football he played since 2012 when he was drafted in the first round out of Illinois.

"I like it a lot, to be honest with you," Mercilus said in a telephone interview. "I've done a lot. A lot of guys playing in the league right now played at a young age. For me, I was a late bloomer. I played since my freshman year in high school, starting a little bit later than most. I was able to make an opportunity for myself. I've gotten my fill, done everything I could. I had a few injuries here and there, nagging injuries you carry into retirement. I get to focus now on other things."

Those things include an incredible passion for philanthropy.

Mercilus, former Texans safety Justin Reid, retired Texans offensive lineman Chester Pitts and former WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes are the team captains Saturday for the Ultimate Most Dopest Dodgeball Charity Challenge hosted by former MLS player Brian Ching at Pitch 25 in Houston.

The captains are playing for their own charities. Mercilus is representing the WithMerci Foundation that provides advocate services and support to families of children with disabilities and special needs Reid for JReid InDeed, a charitable organization that focuses on equipping and funding disadvantaged youth and communities through programs, community engagement and technology access,Pitts for Carson Parke, which provides long-term residential treatment to girls, ages 12 to 17, with serious to severe emotional and behavioral problems from all backgrounds, including low-income families and Swoopes, a WNBA champion and Olympic gold medalist, for her Back to Our Roots Foundation. The event is organized by Tamara Washington of Boom Media and Image Consulting Inc. with tickets available at Event Brite.

"The focal point for me this year is going to be focusing on bipolar disorder, educating the public and making sure they're getting the correct information and allowing families to reach out to us to get to the right organization and enjoy those services," Mercilus said. "We get to focus on going against each other and there will be a lot of trash talking for everybody to enjoy and watch us get down and dirty on the field and see us duke it out and have a good old time."

Reid won the trophy last year.

"I was strategic and put together the strongest team, so it makes sense why I won and will win again this year," Reid said. "I am even more excited because this year I’m throwing balls for my own charity, J.Reid InDeed."

Individual tickets are $20 each (kids 5 and under are free) for spectators. Sponsorship opportunities are available as well at https://ultimatedodgeballcharitychallenge.eventbrite.com/

Mercilus played for the Texans for a decade before being released last season and joining the Green Bay Packers.

Mercilus, one of the most active players in the community and the league in terms of philanthropy, retired with 58 career sacks, 13 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

"I hope everybody knows me for putting in everything I had on and off the field," Mercilus said. "I wasn't always the perfect player, nobody is. I wanted to represent that I can always do some good. If you try your hardest, you can fall seven times and get up that eighth time and keep going. You always represent that and do truly everything in your power that God has given you to keep your talents and inspire those around you and those from afar.

"That was very rewarding for me over the course of my career. For fans who reached out to me via social media or interacted with them face to face to tell me how much they inspired them, that was the coolest thing to have somebody tell you that. I don't look for thank yous, but it was really cool to see how much my presence impacted them from up close on Sundays."

Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and analyst and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

Divisional Round - Houston Texans v New England Patriots

Photo: Getty Images

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