MORGANTOWN — Bruce Irvin was a happy guy late Thursday night when he got on the phone for a conference call with the media.And why not? He was about to become a multimillionaire after the most stunning turn in the first round of the NFL draft.The former juvenile delinquent turned West Virginia pass rusher had just been taken with the 15th pick in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks. It was more than even he could have imagined."I've been trying to stay off the media and off the Twitter and all that,'' said Irvin, who despite that knew that he was being projected as, at best, a mid to late second-round pick. "But I expected late first round. I didn't expect 15. It really surprised me.''
It surprised most of the football world, too.But Seattle and coach Pete Carroll took a chance on the 6-foot-3, 245-pound defensive end despite questions that range from his size to what most refer to as character issues.The risks with Irvin, of course, are varied. For starters, he is undersized for a defensive end — the position he played at West Virginia — and he really has only two years of football experience. But while he is better suited as an outside linebacker from a size standpoint, he's never played that position and has never been asked to drop into coverage.NFL teams also debated character issues with Irvin in the run-up to the draft, citing his troubled background from his high school days near Atlanta when he dropped out of school and at one point spent time in juvenile jail and the fact that he never graduated from high school (he got a GED in order to enter junior college). He also had a recent arrest in Morgantown for allegedly destroying a sign on top of a sandwich delivery car.As for the questions about his size and abilities, Irvin defended those. But he was even more adamant about defending his character."I hate when people say I've got character issues,'' Irvin said. "I could see it if I was getting in trouble. But I've never been suspended, I've never failed a drug test. I had a recent little hiccup, but that's it.''As for his issues when he was younger, Irvin said even those have made him a better man."I went through a lot of stuff in my life. I've seen a lot of stuff,'' Irvin said. "The average person, with what I went through, they would not be on this phone with you right now. I could have gone the other way. I could have gone right, but I chose to go left. And when I chose to go left I told God I wasn't going back to what was trying to suck me in. I just surrounded myself with a lot of positive people. They supported me and we did what we had to do."I don't regret any of that, from the recent incident to my days as a teenager. It made me who I am today. The recent incident just showed me that not everybody wants you to be successful. But I went to court Tuesday morning and I got all those charges dismissed.''As for Irvin's on-field questions, well, all are perhaps legitimate. He is undersized for a defensive end in the NFL, but Seattle's defense seems tailor-made for just such a player. The Seahawks run a 4-3 scheme in which one defensive end is mainly a run stopper and the other a pass rusher."This is the kind of guy that puts fear in offensive tackles,'' Carroll said.
And, Irvin said, imagine what he might do with the proper training. He played in what amounted to a junk defense at West Virginia, the 3-3-5, that was mainly geared to stopping the run in the Big East."I know you all have heard that I'm a one-trick pony,'' Irvin said. "But the crazy thing is I got 23 sacks in two years and I've never been coached on anything. It's all athletic ability. So if I get a little coaching just imagine what I can do ... I got 23 sacks in two years without any pass-rushing coaching. So just imagine if I get a coach who knows what he's talking about to teach me some stuff.''Irvin's selection with the No. 15 pick, of course, is more than just a nice surprise. There are definite financial ramifications. Under the NFL's new rookie salary system, the No. 15 pick in the draft will receive a four-year contract with a club option for a fifth year at the average salary of the league's defensive ends who rank No. 3 through 25 on that pay scale. And while the numbers aren't quite clear, that will certainly net Irvin millions over the life of the contract.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1