WVU's Irvin taken by Seahawks with 15th pick
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Bob Jastrab says the credit for what happened Thursday night goes solely to Bruce Irvin.
"It's nice to see any one of our kids be successful, but to see what he did to put himself in this position really says a lot about what he was willing to do to get there," said Jastrab, the head coach at Irvin's junior college, Mt. San Antonio.
Irvin, the now-former West Virginia defensive end, was picked in the first round of the NFL Draft. The Seattle Seahawks invested the No. 15 pick in Irvin, a skilled pass rusher who will be asked to become a more complete player at the professional level.
Yet it was Jastrab who welcomed Irvin off the streets, out of trouble and onto his team in 2008. Two years, two positions, 16 sacks and a national championship later, Irvin had been groomed for WVU. There, he had had 23 sacks in two seasons and in the past week rose to be regarded as arguably the best pass rusher available.
The Seahawks moved back from No. 12 to 15 and made Irvin the first linebacker/defensive end pass rusher selected in the draft. Seattle tied for No. 19 in the 32-team league last season with just 33 sacks. Eleven came from eighth-year defensive end Chris Clemons.
The Seahawks play a 4-3 defense and like to feature a hybrid linebacker/defensive end at the "Leo" position. Coach Pete Carroll learned it as defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers under George Seifert and Clemons has played it for two seasons and totaled 22 sacks.
Clemons, 30, is in the final year of his contract.
Seattle drafted one defensive end in each of the previous three years, but only one is on the roster. Lazarius Levingston, a seventh-round pick out of LSU last year, had one tackle as a rookie.
And so it was that as Irvin became the ninth Mountaineers player to be taken in the first round, Jastrab was filled with pride, but also regret.
"What I noticed between the first year and the second year here was that something clicked and he said, 'Hey, I can make a living doing this,'" Jastrab said Thursday night on campus in Walnut, Calif. "He was always the hardest-working player on the field in the second year for us, no matter what we were doing.
"I look back on it now and wish I had filmed it to show the other players because he did it the way you're supposed to do it."
Irvin excelled at February's draft combine and later visited and interviewed with a list of NFL teams to address concerns about his background. A lengthy feature by Yahoo! Sports earlier this month detailed his involvement with drugs and crime years ago, but also enabled Irvin to tell his comeback story to a mass audience.
"I was foolish, man," he said in the story. "It takes some people longer to realize certain stuff than other people. You never want to go through that situation that I went through, but a lot of people who did that stuff wouldn't be doing this stuff today.
"I beat the odds. It showed me a lot of stuff: life is not just about getting money or having fun. I'm not going to take this one life I got and wreck it."
Irvin, 24, dropped out of high school in Atlanta and later found and escaped the trouble on the streets and in the crowd he was hanging out with before he decided to give football another shot. Irvin earned his GED and then tried to get on the team at Butler (Kan.) Community College before he headed to the west coast.
Irvin started out as a free safety with Mt. San Antonio.
"He came late into camp, but he was a great athlete, so he played and he was on all our special teams," Jastrab said. "The next year, one of our coaches said, 'Hey, can you help us rush the quarterback?'"
Irvin didn't resist, but he didn't like putting his hand in the dirt. He soon realized he was just too fast for offensive tackles, and eventually for double teams, and then he took off by taking passers off their feet.
He had 16 sacks as the Mounties won a national title in 2009 and Irvin was named a junior college all-American.
"Sometimes he killed the quarterback," Jastrab said. "He'd hit the quarterback so hard he'd get a penalty."
Irvin is WVU's first first-round pick since Adam Jones was picked No. 6 overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2005. Tight end Anthony Becht (2000), defensive end Renaldo Turnbull (1990), offensive lineman Brian Jozwiak (1986), fullback Dick Leftridge (1966), linebacker Chuck Howley (1958), fullback Joe Marconi (1956) and offensive lineman Joe Stydahar (1936) are the school's only other first-round picks.
Irvin joined the group despite only two years at the Division I level and hardly what talent scouts would consider extended playing time. On one of the nation's best defenses in 2010, Irvin was No. 2 nationally with 14 sacks, but he played about 225 total snaps and 15 or fewer in five games.
He never thought about entering the draft because, as he said, he didn't want to be a third- or fourth-round draft pick and was instead obsessed with being taken in the first round.
Irvin started just six games last season and dipped to 8 1/2 sacks, but was disruptive enough that opposing offenses had to game-plan for him. Irvin, who was nevertheless first-team All-Big East in 2011, ended his career strong with a key sack and forced fumble at the end of the first half of the Orange Bowl rout.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Irvin ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds at the combine and added a 123-inch broad jump.
"This is a great picture for anyone who's made a mistake and wants to turn their life around," Jastrab said. "I'm proud, almost like a father, to see a kid do what he's done after he was at his wit's end and really not sure what he was going to do with his life."
Carroll recruited Irvin when the defender was in junior college, and Irvin visited USC before choosing to play at WVU.
"I've known the guy for a long time and I know what he brings to a football team and the excitement he generates," Carroll said Thursday night. "He's a great pass rusher. The speed he brings is so unique and so rare. When he had his opportunity to show it in the college game, he came out as the best pass rusher in America.
"This guy is going to be a great asset to the program. I love that we had a background with him all the way through, when maybe other teams didn't. And maybe they didn't have an understanding of what the kid is all about and what he brings. We thought we had special information all the way though."