B.J. Irvin was the guy who got into trouble with the law, who dropped out of high school, who by his own admission could have easily gone a much different and much worse direction in his life. When Irvin moved to Southern California in 2008 to enroll at Mount San Antonio College, he decided to leave B.J. behind and start going by Bruce.
His reasoning was simple.
"Because B.J. was the one that was getting in trouble," Irvin said in a conference call. "That's two different people, man."
The Seahawks are taking a gamble that Irvin, a defensive end out of West Virginia, has not only left his troubles behind, but that he is worthy of being a surprise pick in the top half of the first round.
After trading down from No. 12 to No. 15 -- picking up fourth and sixth-round picks from Philadelphia -- the Seahawks were in position to take any pass rusher they wanted, including North Carolina's Quinton Coples and South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, widely regarded as the top two pass rushers in the draft. Instead they went with Irvin, a player with who is tremendously fast but undersized, and also comes with the dreaded label of being a player with "character issues."
"Obviously we viewed him as the best pass rusher in the draft," said Seahawks general manager John Schneider. "... We had this guy rated as one of the top players in the draft."
And considering the players Seattle passed up, it's easy to believe Schneider when he says that. It would be one thing if the Seahawks had taken Irvin with the other top defensive ends already gone, then told us that they got the guy they really wanted all along. But as was the case last year when the Seahawks took James Carpenter over other tackles who had better pre-draft hype, Schneider and Pete Carroll weren't afraid to stick to their convictions and take the player they wanted.
Asked why there hadn't been more talk about Irvin as a first-round pick, Schneider smiled and said, "You've got to ask somebody else about that."
According to a Yahoo! Sports feature that ran on Irvin earlier this month, he was thrown out of his house after dropping out of high school in Georgia. In 2007, he and two others were arrested for breaking into a drug dealer's house and was charged with burglary and carrying a concealed weapon. That charge was dropped, as was a misdemeanor charge of destruction of property stemming from an arrest last month, an incident Irvin called "a little hiccup." Irvin was in court just two days before the draft dealing with that charge.
Between those two arrests, Irvin earned his GED, went to Mount San Antonio, then West Virginia, where he was one of the nation's top pass rushers the last two seasons. Irvin is confident both in his abilities as a player, and of the fact that his troubles are behind him.
"I went through a lot of stuff in my life, I've seen a lot of stuff," he said. "If the average person went through what I went through, they wouldn't be on this phone with you right now.
"I could have went the other way, I could have went right, but I chose to go left. When I chose to go left, I told God that I wasn't going back to what was trying to suck me in. I just surrounded myself with a lot of positive people, man. They supported me and we did what we had to do to make it here, and I'm here talking to you all today."
The fact that the Seahawks were the first team willing to take a chance on Irvin is hardly a coincidence. In his final year at USC, Carroll recruited Irvin, though they were unable to clear him academically. Still, Carroll got to know Irvin well enough to believe that he won't be a problem on or off the field.
"To find a way to live and to cope and to get through the transition of that would test anybody," Carroll said. "He made it through it and he's a guy that's got great resolve about doing the right thing and being a great team member."
Of course to take a player in the first round, a team has to be sold on more than his character, and it's clear Carroll and Schneider are big believers in Irvin's pass-rushing ability.
"He's rare," Schneider said. "This guy comes off the ball like Dwight Freeney and Von Miller and Javon Kearse. Iit's like that."
Carroll went so far as to say Irvin "looks like a carbon copy of Von Miller rushing the passer," referring to last year's No. 2 pick who earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Irvin says the "sky's the limit for me," and while he was talking about his abilities as a pass rusher, it is clear he also believes the same is true in a life that could have easily gone an entirely different direction five years ago.
"I'm just happy Pete Carroll trusted in me and believed in me," Irvin said. "Deep down in his heart, he knows I'm a changed person. He knows Bruce. Pete Carroll didn't even know B.J. He knows Bruce, so that's all that matters."
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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