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Illinois' Mercilus wins Hendricks Award

Whitney Mercilus of Illinois has been selected as the winner of the 2011 Ted Hendricks Award, presented to the nation's top defensive end.

Mercilus leads the nation in sacks with 14 1/2 and forced fumbles with nine, while compiling 52 overall tackles and 19 1/2 for loss. He is one shy of tying the NCAA record of 10 forced fumbles and will have a chance to do so when Illinois takes on UCLA in the Fight Hunger Bowl on December 31 in San Francisco.

The junior from Akron, Ohio is just 1 1/2 sacks shy of the Illinois single- season record of 16 set by Simeon Rice in 1994. He is also a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation's top defensive player.

Mercilus was joined on the final ballot by Frank Alexander of Oklahoma, Andre Branch of Clemson, Vinny Curry of Marshall, Sam Montgomery of LSU and Nick Perry of Southern California.

The award is presented by The Hendricks Foundation and named in honor of the former University of Miami three-time All-American and Pro Football Hall of Famer.

"It's another great choice by our selection committee," said Hendricks. "Discipline and responsibility are his assets, but underneath it all, his innate football ability and work ethic have a lot to do with his success. He is another one that never takes a break when the ball is in play. Whitney, no doubt, was merciless on opposing QBs this fall!"

Previous winners of the award included Terrell Suggs of Arizona State in 2002, Elvis Dumervil of Louisville in 2005, LaMarr Woodley of Michigan in 2006 and Brian Orakpo of Texas in 2008. Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers was last year's winner.