Whitney Mercilus may be known best as an outside linebacker for the Houston Texans, but his passions extend far beyond football. In 2016, Mercilus founded the WithMerci Foundation, a charitable organization that provides advocacy and support to families of children with disabilities and special needs.
An Akron native with deep Haitian roots, Mercilus may show “No Merci” on the field, but he is “All Merci” off the field. For instance, this past August when a local Houston news station covered the story of a 3-year-old boy named Gavin who had key pieces of his cochlear hearing implant stolen, the response from local news viewers, including Mercilus, was overwhelming.
Moved by the story, the linebacker contacted Gavin’s family and offered to replace the implant. Mercilus also invited the family to training camp, a dream come true for Gavin whose favorite sport is football and favorite team is the Texans. Gavin’s family expressed gratitude to Mercilus for helping them turn a negative experience into a positive one for Gavin, who was born deaf and depends on his implant to hear and communicate with others.
Another instance of WithMerci’s charitable efforts occurred this past June when Mercilus and his teammates took over bartending duties at Moxie’s Grill & Bar in Houston in an effort to raise money for school supplies for local students. WithMerci partnered on the event with Return 2 Learning, an organization formed in 2017 to provide relief to Hurricane Harvey victims.
Football may be a tough grind, but the Texans behind the bar gained a newfound affinity for bartenders, especially Mercilus who is also a passionate entrepreneur and part owner of One Fifth restaurant in Houston. "Now bartending, that's a whole different skill set. I don't know how they deal with that on a daily basis. I deal with a lot of pressure, 70,000 fans, but when you get slammed behind the bar, can't do it at all," Mercilus admitted.
With a 2018 focus on cerebral palsy, the WithMerci Foundation has donated nearly $300,000 since its inception to programs that serve disabled and special needs children. In addition to providing material resources, Mercilus’ foundation also demonstrates the value of team spirit off the field by building morale and lifting the spirits of others who need it most.