FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Bruce Irvin couldn't be happier being in Miami, Fla., for the first time in his life and playing in a BCS bowl game. And that's convenient from a newspaper copy point of view, because there's no one who cuts to the chase and explains it any better than West Virginia's brash senior defensive end."Yeah, you want to go out with a BCS bowl in a place like Miami,'' Irvin said. "I'd be pissed if I was playing in the Pinstripe Bowl and this was my last year.''Anything else, Bruce?"Yeah,'' he said. "A lot of pretty good gifts.''
The truth is, in his two all-too-brief years at West Virginia, Irvin has been a gift in and of himself. And not just to the Mountaineers, who of course are much better off defensively because of the presence of the most dynamic pass rusher the school has had since Gary Stills.No, while Irvin's 14 sacks a season ago and his game-altering presence this year (his sacks were reduced greatly, but opponents had to drastically alter game plans to accomplish that) were invaluable on the field, his honesty was an even more refreshing addition, at least to those of us who chronicle such matters. On a team populated mostly by cliche mongers and/or reluctant public speakers - there are those who don't fall into those categories, but too few - Irvin was far and away the most notable exception.He was John Thornton reincarnate.My favorite heretofore unpublished utterance by Irvin was after West Virginia had lost to Louisville and someone asked him how he felt. See, it doesn't even take probing questions."[I feel] like somebody came into my village and did it with my wife,'' he said.That might be the new No. 1 on my all-time list of favorite West Virginia football quotes, replacing one that the late Mike Cherry and I elicited from a young wide receiver shortly after he arrived in Morgantown well over a decade ago when he was asked what kind of an impact he thought he could make as a freshman.
"I ain't no freshman,'' the young man said in what we assumed was all seriousness, not a trace of his gold-toothed smile showing through. "I's Antonio Brown.''Irvin, of course, is no freshman, either. He's been around the block more than once - certainly more than most college seniors - having given up football in high school, running afoul of the law, even spending time in jail and then resurrecting his life via junior college football and then a couple of years at West Virginia.He's even made enough time to watch a little college football and study it. How else to explain his first real opinion on the Clemson team he'll face in Wednesday's Orange Bowl. Keep in mind this was a few weeks back, before he'd watched a single bit of video on the Tigers."They run down a pretty nice hill to touch a big rock before a game,'' Irvin said.Tell the truth. You're going to miss that, aren't you? You want Bruce Irvin in front of that pen. You need Bruce Irvin in front of that pen.
I know I do. Just about any chat with Bruce Irvin is good for two, maybe three separate Bruce Irvin stories, which is why you haven't read the last of him from me this week. He has one more college game to go before he begins to really work toward the April NFL draft. And although he refuses to talk about his pre-draft workout plans, he was obviously frustrated that during his last prolonged opportunity to impress scouts during the season, the attention paid to him by opposing defensive coordinators made that nearly impossible."But I'm sure DeMarcus Ware and Terrell Suggs and those guys get all that in the NFL,'' Irvin said. "You've got to adjust to it, and those guys have me by 40 or 50 pounds. Hopefully when I get to that weight, a triple-team won't be a problem.''Oh, so that's the workout plan between Wednesday's Orange Bowl and April's draft, huh? Eat and gain 40 pounds?"Ain't no lying about that,'' Irvin said. "Eat, eat, eat.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org