Seahawks fulfill their need for speed

Posted Apr 26, 2012

The Seahawks got the pass rusher they were after, and also added two more draft choices, by trading back in the first round of the NFL Draft to select West Virginia's Bruce Irvin.

The Seahawks, as it turns out, got two players and three picks in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night.

First, they traded out of the 12th spot in a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles that also netted the Seahawks extra picks in the fourth and sixth rounds by moving down three spots in the first round. Then, the selected Bruce Irvin, an explosively quick defensive end from West Virginia.


Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia

Pick: 15th selection overall, after the Seahawks traded down from the 12th spot.
Pertinent numbers: 6 feet 3, 245 pounds. … Had 8.5 sacks last season and 14 in 2010 at West Virginia and 16 in 2009 at Mt. San Antonio Junior College. … Ran the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine, but the Seahawks said he has been clocked even faster. … His real eye-popping effort came in the 20-yard shuttle, where he clocked a 4.03 – compared to 4.79 for Melvin Ingram, who was widely considered the best pass rusher in this draft class. … Has 33-inch arms. … Will turn 25 in November.
What he brings: Explosive quickness off the edge, and the perseverance to overcome having dropped out of high school by earning his GED and attending two junior colleges before going to West Virginia.

Where he fits: Coach Pete Carroll says Irvin has the perfect skill set to the play the “Leo” end position in the Seahawks’ defense. In the nickel, Irvin will complement Chris Clemons, who registered 11 sacks in each of the past two seasons. But Carroll says there is enough pursuit and physicality to Irvin’s game that he’ll also use him and Clemons in tandem on mixed downs.

What they’re saying: “He’s got a lot to learn. He’s going to have to grow up with us and learn our system. But the makeup of this player is so rare. The most recent guy, he looks like a carbon copy of Von Miller rushing the passer.” – Carroll, comparing Irvin to the Broncos’ first-round draft choice last year when Miller was in college.

What he’s saying: “I just love eating quarterbacks. … I got 23 sacks in two years (at West Virginia) without any pass-rush coaching. So just imagine if I get a coach who knows what he’s talking about to teach me some stuff. I’m going to do great stuff for this organization.”

“We were extremely excited,” general manager John Schneider said of the not-so-surprising trade that led to the somewhat-surprising selection of Irvin. “Obviously, we viewed him as the best pass rusher in the draft.”

Schneider was talking about Bruce Irvin, not B.J. Irvin, in discussing the moves that addressed the team’s most-pressing need.

Say what? Let Irvin explain, because it was Irvin who went by B.J. during his troubled teen years and switched to Bruce when he got to junior college in 2008.

“B.J. was the one that was getting in trouble. That’s two different people,” Irvin explained in a telephone interview from Atlanta, where he was watching the draft with his family. “I’m just happy Pete Carroll trusted in me and just believed in me. Deep down in his heart, he knew that I was a changed person.

“Pete Carroll doesn’t even know B.J. He knows Bruce. So that’s all that matters.”

The in-a-nutshell story about Irvin’s troubled past includes dropping out of high school as a junior because of his grades, spending two years on the streets and being arrested on a robbery charge. But he regrouped to earn his GED and then went to Butler Community College in Kansas before moving to Mount San Antonio College in California.

“I went through a lot of stuff in my life. I’ve seen a lot of stuff,” Irvin said. “The average person who went through what I went through, they would not be on this phone with you right now.”

Irvin was on the receiving end of the best phone call in his life because of Carroll, who got to know Irvin while trying to recruit him to USC and fell in love with his unique ability to rush the passer.

“I’ve known this guy for a long time,” Carroll said. “I know what he brings to our football team and the excitement that he generates. He’s a fantastic football player. He’s a great pass rusher. The speed he brings is so unique and so rare.

“When he had his opportunities to show it in college, he came out as the best passer rusher in America.”

Which just happens to be the one thing Carroll and Schneider were not able to add in free agency. The Seahawks had 33 sacks last season. Leo end Chris Clemons had 11, but the rest of the linemen combined for 10. So Irvin will complement Clemons in the nickel defense and Carroll said there is enough to his game that he’ll also use them in tandem on mixed downs.

“Going in, we knew we needed to get pass rush and this is exactly what we were able to address,” Carroll said. “This is the fastest guy you could get to play this position.”

So when you combine the off-the-chart physical traits with the never-say-die mental toughness, well, it prompted Carroll to offer, “That’s something we’re really excited about.”

And his history with Irvin helped Carroll know it was a no-brainer to take him in the first round.

“The fact that I’ve known him for so long and have background with the kid, I know what he’s been through, I feel we’ve got a guy we’ve had interest in – in a lot of areas,” Carroll said.

“This guy is going to be a great asset to the program. And I love that we have background with him, so we knew him in a way where maybe some other teams didn’t and didn’t have the understanding of what the kid’s all about and what he brings.

“We thought we had special information and we’re really excited about this pick in a huge way.”

The Seahawks view Irvin’s perseverance to overcome his past as a plus, rather than a reason for red flags.

“This is a young man who has had a lot to overcome in his life,” Schneider said. “But there are certain things that are very impressive to us, and one of the primary things when you’re looking at something like this is what has the guy had to overcome in his life?

“We’re talking about building character and toughness and that sort of thing. He’s had a rough go of it, there’s no doubt about it.”

And Irvin refused to back down, or give up.

As a result the Seahawks have a pass rusher with a get-off so explosive that it had Schneider and Carroll invoking Dwight Freeney, Von Miller, Jevon Kearse, Charles Haley, Chris Doleman and Derrick Thomas.

“That’s the kind of affect this guy has a chance to have,” Carroll said. “At this position, it’s so rare to find a guy that runs this fast that there’s no team I’ve ever been around that we wouldn’t have taken this guy.”

Added Schneider, “This guy’s rare.”