Irvin wants to silence doubters in final season
Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 23:08
For the Green Lantern, it takes the presence of a Power Ring to perform superhuman feats. For Spider-Man, it took a bite from a radioactive spider. For West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin, his power comes from skipping trips to the barber and letting his hair grow out.
"It's my hair," Irvin said. "I'm telling you, it's my hair. If I'd cut my hair, I'd probably lose an inch and weight."
The freakishly athletic senior became a Morgantown sensation a year ago has the speed of a receiver and the strength of a lineman.
Defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich sees this rare skill set daily at practice, but he still is continually amazed by what Irvin can do.
"For his size, he's not supposed to be that strong. He's a strong, strong guy; naturally strong," he said.
Irvin may be 90 pounds lighter than redshirt freshman offensive lineman Quinton Spain, but that doesn't stop him from going right at him during practice – according to teammates, this is something he does on a daily basis.
Whether you believe his reasoning or not, it is in the best interest of Mountaineer fans to hope opposing teams don't sneak into Irvin's apartment and trim him up while he sleeps.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Irvin has only played one season at West Virginia, yet his exploits resound through generations of Mountaineer fans as almost mythical.
Last season, as you well know by now, Irvin recorded 14 sacks – good for second-best in the nation. Used primarily on third down, Irvin came into games and wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Watching his dreads fly through the crisp, autumn air was almost like watching a tightly bound group of missiles heading towards a target.
Something you should know about that analogy and Bruce Irvin: He has
He only played around 200 plays last year, averaging a sack a little over every 14 plays.
He tallied multiple sacks in five games, including two sacks and a forced fumble against North Carolina State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
So, how do you improve on a year like that? Well, one way to do that is statistically.
"I want to do better than I did last year – of course I want to have more than 22 tackles," he said.
Aside from that, though, Irvin echoes the sentiment of almost all the other seniors by declaring his team-based ambitions.
"I want to end my senior season on a better note than the seniors did last year," he said. "It's about winning. It's about this team."
Along with fellow senior defensive lineman Julian Miller, Irvin has acknowledged the importance of being a leader to his teammates.
"They have to see us; we have to lead by example," he said. "We have older guys like Julian that are getting us right and showing us how (Jeff) Casteel wants (the underclassmen) to play."
So, what does Bruce Irvin do when he isn't sacking quarterbacks or maintaining that magical hair? Well, he reads, of course.
In his spare time Irvin likes to read articles written about him. Heck, what college athlete doesn't? The thing is, Irvin is different in the aspect that he only reads articles that put him in a negative light.
"It motivates me," Irvin said of the negative press. "I like seeing what people think. When I'm at practice and (I'm) tired, I think about message boards or an article that called me overrated, and I think, ‘Man, I have to get it,' because I have people out here doubting me."
Irvin was particularly irked by his positioning on college football writer Phil Steele's list of the country's top defensive ends.
After his successful junior year and being named preseason all-Big East and placed on the Bednarik (national defensive player of the year award) watch list, Steele placed Irvin at No. 38 on his list.
"I don't even know 38 defensive ends in the whole nation," Irvin said.
Being called overrated is something he doesn't understand, given the success he saw in such limited exposure last season.
Regardless, Irvin's tone for the season has been set.
"I don't understand how you can be overrated if you play 200 plays and you have 14 sacks," Irvin said. "From a personal aspect, I feel like I have a lot of stuff to prove.
"And I will prove it come Sept. 4."
As long as Marshall, and the rest of the Mountaineers' schedule, doesn't cut off those definitive dreadlocks, expect Irvin to prove his naysayers wrong and stake his claim as one of the best defensive ends in the country.