From sacking QBs to influencing kids

Posted Oct 11, 2012

Bruce Irvin, the Seahawks’ first-round draft choice, spent Sunday sacking Cam Newton and then spent Tuesday telling his story to kids at the Green Hill School in Chehalis.

Bruce Irvin has generated a lot talk this week after his two-sack performance helped seal the deal in the Seahawks’ victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

And, entering Sunday’s much-anticipated game against the New England Patriots at CenturyLink Field, Irvin leads all NFL rookies with 4.5 sacks. But it was a talk the team’s first-round draft choice gave to 125 residents of the Green Hill School in Chehalis on Tuesday that was even more impressive.

“It was a good experience, and I look forward to doing it again,” Irvin said on Thursday.

How does an NFL player end up making the almost 90-mile drive from Virginia Mason Athletic Center on the players off day to speak at a youth detention center? Irvin has a background not unlike a lot of the kids in the medium/maximum security facility, and if not for the grace of being a talented pass-rusher he could have ended up in a similar situation rather than playing at West Virginia and now in the NFL.

“Like I told the kids, ‘I look at them and I see myself when I was younger,’ ” Irvin said. “You aren’t going to be able to touch everybody, but I think I touched quite a few of them.”

Kevin Griffin, the Seahawks’ director of fan development, accompanied Irvin.

“It was amazing,” Griffin said. “The best speech I’ve heard from a professional athlete.”

Not surprisingly, Irvin said, “That’s the type of stuff I want to do after I’m done playing football.”

But that won’t be for a while. Not with the way he has played in his first five games for the Seahawks. The club made him the 15th pick in the draft to provide a rusher with equal relentlessness to play opposite Chris Clemons, who produced 11 sacks in each of his first two seasons with the Seahawks and has 5.5 this season.

So far, better than good. With Clemons and Irvin combining for the second-most sacks of any end tandem in the league, the Seahawks already have 16 – compared to 33 all of last season, when Clemons had 11 but the other linemen combined for 10. Through five games, the linemen have 14.5 sacks.

“Bruce is exactly where we thought he would be,” said coach Pete Carroll, who took some heat along with general manager John Schneider after the draft for “reaching” to take a player that could help generate some heat on opposing quarterbacks.

“It wasn’t a major projection for us. We saw what we needed to see. … He’s a factor right away, which is what we had hoped for.”

And through hard work and more than just a little help from Clemons, Irvin has taken his game beyond that of a pure speed rusher. His two sacks against the Panthers came on “games,” as they call designed stunts and loops involving more than one rusher. On the first, the center had been moving quickly to his right, so they had Irvin loop around the center and through the vacated gap to chase Cam Newton down as he was moving away from him. On the second, which also forced a fumble that was recovered by tackle Alan Branch, the back stayed in but had to decide whether to chip Clemons or Irvin. The back went for Clemons, leaving Irvin to get to the QB.  

“Bruce is just getting more and more confident with his ability,” defensive line coach Todd Wash said. “He’s improving drastically every day. He’s starting to really become a student of the game with extra meetings about how we’re going to rush certain individuals.

“He takes a lot of pride in what he does, and has a lot of high expectations for himself. So he’s really working toward those goals.”

But it’s the jaw-dropping speed and quickness off the edge that allows Wash and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to use Irvin in other ways.

“He’s so fast that you get him started up field, and the tackle sets, and you work him with the three-technique (tackle) in there,” Carroll said, with free-agent addition Jason Jones filling the three-tech spot in the nickel line.

“It’s just a really good aspect of what he brings. He can get all the way to the other side of the line of scrimmage and still be a factor.”

Just like Irvin has the ability to get inside the hearts and heads of kids at a detention center of his off day.