I've learned a lot about various players as I've done these player profiles, but the story of West Virginia's Bruce Irvin is one of the most interesting, and an instance where a knee-jerk reaction to hearing the highlights of the story would be selling him short.
Irvin grew up in a rough neighborhood in Atlanta, dropped out of high school after his junior season, and was running with the wrong crowd, getting himself in some real trouble (three weeks in jail). Irvin said at the Combine that he was basically homeless after that, and it took that to "finally see the light". He got some help from a good Samaritan, who took him into his home, and only asked for hard work and dedication in return for food and shelter.
And that's what Irvin gave him. He finished his GED so he could go to Junior College. He had only played football one season in High School, but I think that was more based on circumstances than he didn't want to. When he was coming out of JC, he was ranked #2 overall coming from Junior College, and committed to West Virginia, where he had an incredible two seasons in Morgantown.
As a Junior, Irvin was second in the nation in sacks (14), even though he had just 21 tackles, the epitome of a pass rusher. He backed it up his senior season with 8.5 more sacks, and 40 overall, so he was learning how to make plays other than just on the Quarterback. He had 5 forced fumbles in his career as well. The Mountaineers play in a 3-3-5 style, so he did all this with a hand on the ground the entire time, something he wouldn't be doing in the NFL, as he's projected as a 3-4 OLB.
After the jump we have what some draft sites have to say about Irvin, as well as all his measurements from the Combine and my thoughts on him.
He's simply a natural pass rusher. He lacks great size and looks a bit narrow through his hips/upper body, but he possesses an athletic build and can really coil up and fire out of his stance...A gifted athlete who has the initial burst to routinely reach the edge. However, lacks ideal size and doesn't have a real sophisticated pass rushing repertoire. Is going to make the move to a 34 OLB at the next level and might need a little time.
An extremely lean, angular, explosive upfield rusher with limited football experience and minimal bulk to fit as more than a nickel speed-rush specialist or rotational, wide-nine "elephant" end.
Bruce is a compelling prospect whose athletic ability is as unique as his path to the NFL. An electrifying pass rusher who will fit as either a specialist DE or an OLB in a 3-4 scheme, Irvin uses a flurry of moves and his uncanny athletic ability to maneuver his undersized frame around and through offensive linemen to produce massive sack production in his limited views at West Virginia.
Irvin was asked at the Combine how he has convinced teams he's a changed man:
Check my past four or five years, I got a lot of people who can vouch for me, I'm no longer that person who I was, I went by BJ, now I'm Bruce. That's what I tell them.
He was very candid with his entire past, not afraid to talk about any part of it. To me, that's the sign of a mature guy who has learned from the mistakes he made as a kid, and is taking advantage of the second chance he's been given in life. With his talent level, I doubt he's going to be picked at #34, and he's going to be drafted before the Colts draft again. I'm rooting for the guy, no matter what team he ends up on.
For a complete list of prospects and profiles, check out our 2012 Draft Profiles Page.