DE Bruce Irvin was on the first-round radar of few around the NFL draft. But after hearing him talk, everyone is going to know him very well very soon.
In the weird world of pro sports, there are any number of explanations and excuses for misdeed and misbehavior — almost as many as are found in politics.
Never before heard the one offered Thursday evening by Bruce Irvin, the newest Seahawk.
Attempting to explain his arrest in Morgantown, W. Va., last month for damaging a sign at a sandwich shop, he said he appeared in court Tuesday and had the charges dropped.
“The Lord knew,” Irvin said, “the charges were BS.”
Repeated calls to the Lord went unanswered, so we are forced to rely on Irvin’s account. But if Irvin is half as good at intervening in opposing offenses as he is in getting the Divine to intervene in his legal affairs . . . lawdy, lawdy, the Seahawks have something here.
In a teleconference with reporters at Seahawks headquarters, the first-round draft choice from West Virginia University, and plenty of other stops, was grateful, giddy, garrulous and goofy.
“I’m happy to get the opportunity and overlook all the negative stuff said about me,” he said from Atlanta. “I went through a lot of stuff in my life . . . I seen a lot of stuff. The average person who went through this wouldn’t be with you on the phone right now.”
What “stuff” was, wasn’t fully clear, although some of it includes the fact that he dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and twice spent time in jail before earning his GED at a junior college. Nevertheless, he maintains an eloquent defense.
“I hate when people say I got character issues,” he said. “I could see if I was getting in trouble in junior college selling drugs. But I’ve never been suspended or failed a drug test.”
Well, then. If it doesn’t work out with the Seahawks, Congress beckons. Although the background check by the Secret Service — and we know about their standards – will disclose that in 2008 Irvin abandoned his nickname, B.J., for Bruce.
“Because B.J. was the one who was getting in trouble,” he said. “That’s two different people.”
He laughed. Reporters laughed. But the day he was arrested for property damage was the same day he worked out for scouts at WVU’s pro day. Apparently, B.J. isn’t far away from Bruce. Nor is the Lord.
“He took care of it,” Irvin affirmed. “He knew what was up. It was a lesson learned: The recent incident showed me some people don’t want me to be successful.”
Two people who urgently feel the need for his success are general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, who earlier in the day saw the dumbfounded looks on the faces of reporters who had read or heard next to nothing about Irvin despite tanker-truck loads of information that flooded the land about the draft.
The Seahawks bosses knew about Irvin. They also knew that Google just filled the NFL world with scads of dirt about the 6-3 foot-3, 250-pound defensive end lineman who projected as a second-rounder in most reports. Carroll was quick to load up the superlatives before reporters could say, “But . . . but . . .”
“He came out as the best pass rusher in America,” Carroll said decisively. “He’s a fantastic football player. The speed he brings is so unique and so rare. That’s something we’re really excited about. He chases the football, he’s physical, he’s got great effort. The intensity he brings, the excitement he brings, you want him on the field as much as you can get it.”
Schneider, who three days earlier made the point about character as a priority and that dubious dudes “wouldn’t be brought in the building,” said Thursday, “this guy’s had a rough story, no doubt about it.”
He was quick to portray Irvin as more about hard luck and more of a victim than a perp. Even including the arrest for property damage.
“We know what happened. We researched it,” he said. “He made a mistake and was remorseful and all that. It was a situation we were comfortable with.”
It is much easier to get comfortable with a 250-pound guy who runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. Carroll was quicker to a comfort level, owing to the fact that he tried to recruit Irvin to USC. The grade thing was a problem. But in the NFL, little concern is given to recall of 18th century French poets.
“I’ve known the guy for a long time,” he said. “We were fortunate to know the background more than some other teams.”
Irvin was down with the warm-and-cuddly.
“We go way back,” Irvin said. “We got more than a coach-player relationship. We got to be friends.”
But they weren’t so close that Carroll gave Irvin any clue about their interest.
“They had a serious talk with me at the combine,” he said. “But I didn’t think ever really was interested in me. I’m just astonished right now.”
Which would make him one with everyone in Seattle and most everyone in the NFL watched as the Seahawks traded down three places with the Philadelphia Eagles to pick a guy most figured would be available in the second round.
So Irvin is eager to prove right his man Pete.
“I know y’all heard I’m a one-trick pony,” he said of his extreme pash rush skills. “The crazy things I got 23 sacks in two years (at WVU) and I’ve never been coached. It’s all athletic ability. If I get a little coaching in me, just imagine what I can do.”
Nevertheless, he said, “I’m gonna stay humble.”
The Seahawks did not draft a football player. They drafted an adventure.