By KYLE LOVERN
One can’t help but pull for former West Virginia University defensive end Bruce Irvin in this week’s NFL draft. To say that Irvin has had a tough road could be putting it mildly.
Irvin’s high school career ended after three games as a sophomore. His grades weren’t good enough to play as a junior, so he dropped out of school. Irvin is from a tough inner-city neighborhood in Atlanta.
He got with the wrong crowd, spent time on the streets and was arrested for burglarizing a drug dealer’s home. Irvin spent a couple weeks in jail.
The high school dropout was kicked out of his mother’s home with nowhere to go.
In 2007, Irvin was staying at a drug house, wasting his life away, playing video games. That’s when a former teammate stopped by to make a purchase and persuaded him to join him at a prep school for troubled teens in Atlanta.
But that didn’t work out well either. Just days after they arrived, the school was closed because of financial reasons.
The other students had been picked up, but Irwin didn’t have anywhere to go. He was sitting on the curb with the few possessions he had in a garbage bag.
That’s when his saving grace showed up. Chad Allen, a former football player at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, pulled up. He convinced Irvin to reconnect with his mother, take the GED and enroll in Butler Community College in Kansas.
In an on-line article on Yahoo, Irvin said of Allen, “My mentor; a guy who saved my life. I was homeless, and he took me under his wing and let me live with him and train with him. Paid my tuition and it took off from there.”
He got his GED, went to Kansas and then transferred to Mt. San Antonio Community College (Cal). He was a safety, a muscular 235 pounds of raw talent.
When he was recruited by West Virginia, he was considered small for a defensive end, but a player with a tremendous upside. At Mt. San Antonio, he was moved into pass-rush position in his second season and had 16 sacks.
He had a stellar career at WVU, where he had 14 sacks as a junior and 8 ½ as a senior (because teams ran away from him or doubled teamed him this past season), and had 29 other tackles for negative yardage.
Irvin has gotten the attention from the NFL coaches and scouts.
His numbers at the scouting combine were great. Irvin ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the event. Now projected as an outside linebacker, his 4.05-second 20-yard shuttle and 6.71-second three-cone drill were not only the fastest times among all defensive linemen, they were also faster than any linebacker who worked out.
Irvin is projected as a 2nd or 3rd round pick, but he could sneak into the later parts of the first round. Either way, he will get his chance at professional football.
Now the 6-foot-3, 245 pound specimen is ready to hear his name announced during the 3-day NFL draft. He has had visits from NFL coaches and has traveled to some of those cities to interview and have private workouts.
Irvin will surely be a rags to riches story. Hopefully he will make Mountaineer fans proud in the coming years.
His past behind him and his future bright, one can’t help cheer for Irvin, who pulled himself up out of the gutter and has turned his life around.
Irvin’s physical skills and determination have helped him toward a goal that at one time seemed like it would never materialize.
With his distinctive talents, Irvin’s climb to the top of his sport is almost complete. Let’s hope he will continue his success and turn his life completely around.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)