To get an idea of the previously haphazard life of the Seahawks’ top draftee, Bruce Irvin, he was not recruited by any college because he dropped out of high school. So he recruited colleges — by Googling them.
That’s how he found Butler Community College in El Dorado, KN. He applied, was accepted and drove from Atlanta, only to find out the football team had its quota of eight out-of-state players.
Be aware of college by search engine: Data is incomplete.
Irvin stayed at Butler for a semester to get some grades, then returned home, where, undaunted, he fired up Google again. This time, he landed on Mt. San Antonio College, in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California.
The football coaches were sent a scouting video on Irvin. Suddenly it didn’t matter about quotas, grades, dropping out, or a couple of weeks of jail time. Come on out to California, they told him. Go get the quarterback.
That’s what he did. At Mt. Sac, at West Virginia University and presumably now for the Seahawks. He was so good at it that coach Pete Carroll not only made the shocker pick of the first round, but the life of Irvin.
“He knew who I was before and he knows who I am now,”said Irvin, who flew to Seattle Friday with his mother, girlfriend and mentor and met reporters Saturday. “People say it was a reach to take me that low (meaning high). I’m not gonna let them down . . . I know I will be very successful.
“Not saying I expected to go at 15 (in the first round), but I don’t feel like 15 is a reach and I don’t think it was. I don’t think there are 32 better guys (in the first round) than me in the country.”
While that will be debated, it seems certain are no better stories than Irvin’s in this draft. The guy was for a time homeless, school-less, clueless and broke. The worst part, he said — as a teenager, he was arrested for robbing the home of a drug dealer, who, unsurprisingly, declined to press charges — was not jail time, but being so poor he almost dropped out of junior college.
“I was doing so good,” he said. “But I was paying out-of-state tuition at $4,600, and I had a hold put on my account and I had to miss spring ball. I didn’t have the money. Man . . . I did all this stuff to turn my life around, and now, I might not play football.”
But his family pulled together the cash, Irvin kept alive his chance, and now he’s about to be a millionaire and one of the most scrutinized youngsters in the NFL.
That’s where things could get really weird.
The riskiest part of the selection of Irvin is that there is no way to measure how he will handle success, which is notorious for devastating pro athletes who’ve never known it. Irvin has had plenty of football success, but he’s barely known two days in a row that weren’t full of travail and headache. Just three years ago, he was living in a two-bedroom, one-bath rental home with another eight or nine players from the Mt. Sac football team, all Samoans.
“They didn’t know me, but they were good-hearted people,” he said. “They accepted me. But you better find a nice spot before everyone else went to sleep. In that situation, it’s every man for himself.”
Irvin has turned his various ordeals into a point of pride.
“Adversity is what I live by,” he said. “I’m still facing it today” with the new expectations. “This is going to be difficult, but if I got through (his earlier life), I can get through anything.”
Maybe so, except he has has no experience with stability, wealth and respect. Some will say to that, “Oh, boo-hoo.” But anyone who has been around professional athletes understands that many are more comfortable with pushing against things. Pushing against air leaves them unbalanced.
Carroll has much experience with players entering new worlds without training. Saturday, he expressed extreme faith in Irvin’s ability to manage success. What else could he say?
“We are anxious to have him show everybody how he can do what he can do as a person,” Carroll said, “to prove to people that when you get a second chance, you can rally make it work out in great fashion. He’s going to stand for that.
“Everybody is going to enjoy the heck out of this. It’s going to be great fun for us.”
For Irvin’s sake, Carroll needs to do more than the usual in helping a rookie navigate. Making such a controversial pick adds pressure like water on a diver down deep. Despite the urgency to win, bringing up Irvin too fast can create the cultural equivalent of the bends.
Long-term success by Irvin would prove to be one of the great redemptive stories in Seahawks history. It can prove nearly has hard to achieve as a comfy spot in a room full of big Samoans.