Born in Atlanta, Bruce Irvin also considers West Virginia home.
“If you know me, you know how I feel about West Virginia,” he said. “I love this state.”
Irvin’s wife, Alyssa Hackworth-Irvin, is from Charleston. Irvin was a star pass rusher at West Virginia University, which led the Seattle Seahawks to take him 15th overall in the 2010 NFL draft. Now an Oakland Raider, Irvin brought some notable friends with him Saturday to Little Creek Park in South Charleston for his third-annual football clinic in conjunction with local nonprofit organization CJKB Infinity Sports.
Along with Irvin, about to start his second year with the Raiders, the clinic featured Irvin’s Pro Bowl teammate Khalil Mack and fellow Raider and former WVU star Karl Joseph, along with several other former Mountaineers — former St. Louis/Los Angeles Ram Steadman Bailey, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Will Clarke and Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Quinton Spain. It also included current WVU defender and former South Charleston star Derrek Pitts and current Capital High standout Kerry Martin Jr.
“This is a kid’s dream,” Irvin said, “coming up as a kid, meeting NFL players and getting as close to the NFL as you can. I’m just happy I can help bring it back to West Virginia.”
Children ranging in age from kindergarten to middle school cycled through offensive, defensive and agility drills, receiving instruction from both local coaches and NFL players. Afterward, clinic participants enjoyed autographs and photos with the players. The clinic was going to be capped at 90 participants, but 105 were on the turf field at Little Creek on Saturday morning.
“When it comes to kids, Bruce absolutely loves the kids,” said Cierra Jones, who started CJKB Infinity Sports with Kenneth Booth. “That’s his biggest thing, giving back. I think it’s super special that he came to the state of West Virginia before we did a camp in his hometown. It’s a blessing for him to trust us with his camp.”
The clinic was a memorable time for some of its coaches, too. Pitts, who just finished his first spring season with the Mountaineers, said his favorite football team to use on video games is the Raiders, so to stand shoulder to shoulder with Irvin, Mack and Joseph on Saturday was something special. It also was special to be there for Kanawha Valley kids who were in the same position Pitts was in just a few years ago — looking for pointers from some experienced instructors.
“They look up to us as role models,” Pitts said. “And were just trying our best to be that. And Infinity Sports is doing a great job for the kids. I want to help them as much as possible.”
The Raiders made major strides in 2016, finishing second in the AFC West with a 12-4 record. Oakland fell in the Wild Card round to the Houston Texans. The Raiders lost starting quarterback Derek Carr to a broken leg in Week 16 and lost backup Matt McGloin in the regular-season finale, forcing rookie quarterback Connor Cook to play against Houston.
Irvin collected 57 tackles and seven sacks and forced six fumbles in his first season with the Raiders. He also has Super Bowl experience, playing in two and winning one with the Seahawks.
“We’re on the right track,” Irvin said of the Raiders, “but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
The kids who ran through drills in the clinic have a long way to go in their journeys in football. Irvin wanted to teach them about more than the sport during Saturday’s activities, and said his experiences in the Mountain State are part of the backbone of those lessons.
“Treat everybody as you want to be treated,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing I got at West Virginia. I had 27 offers coming out, but when I went to West Virginia, it felt like home. I just try to come back as much as I can. You just try to install in the kids to work, work, work and everything else will take care of itself.”