Bruce Irvin greets fans in Nitro
Bruce Irvin, better known to Mountaineer football fans simply as "Bruuuce," greeted a gaggle of Kanawha Valley fans at Collectibles, Etc., over the weekend.
A line of fans decked out in old gold and blue snaked through the small store and down the sidewalk at the store's Nitro Marketplace location Saturday afternoon.
Irvin's defensive prowess and hard hits have earned him a special place in the hearts of the Mountaineer faithful over the last several years. His first name, intoned low with the vowel drawn out, has become a cheer as common as "Let's Go Mountaineers."
Next month, however, he'll kiss his alma mater goodbye as he heads into the NFL draft with prospects as good as any WVU alumnus in recent memory.
"I rank him with Darryl Talley," said one fan, Ronnie Gurnee, who turned out to meet Irvin Saturday afternoon with a friend.
Talley was a linebacker for WVU from 1979 to 1982. He went to the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the 1983 draft and played there for 12 seasons.
Irvin is expected to go in the second round of the draft as well, and he's been meeting with teams all over the country after performing exceptionally well at his NFL pro day appearance.
He doesn't know where he'll end up or even what position he'll be playing, but he said he feels good about the draft.
"I'm real confident," he said before flashing a smile that lights up his usually serious expression.
But he'll miss West Virginia.
The Atlanta native expressed a deep love of Mountaineer football fans.
"They support me both on and off the field," he said. "A lot of places, they only care what you do on the field. Not here. I feel like I'll always have a home in West Virginia."
The hundred-odd fans lined up to have their pictures taken with him and get his autograph were a testament to that.
Many gave the same reason for coming out: "It's Bruce."
Some were alumni, some were just fans. Some watched the games on TV, and some made a point to attend as many games as possible. All agreed that Irvin is exciting to watch.
Collectibles, Etc., manager Chad Rogers said that autographs are free with the purchase of any items from the store, but fans can also pay a fee to bring in their own items.
"We bring in a ton of athletes every year," he said. "Our next big event is Kevin Jones from the basketball team on April 14."