Realizing there were reporters and photographers nearby early in a practice last week, Bruce Irvin decided to show off a little.
As he and other defensive linemen and linebackers went through pass rush drills, the 32-year-old Irvin jogged over towards a 6-foot tackling dummy and casually leapfrogged over it, a reminder of the athleticism that helped make him the Seahawks' first-round pick in 2012.
"I just read all these things about, 'He's old, he's lost a step,' and it's just crazy to me because—knock on wood—I've never had any crazy injuries, I don't miss games. I really did that so y'all could see that, honestly, because I knew y'all were watching. I was like, 'These folks think I'm old, so let me just show them I still got some juice in me.' So that was more just to show people that I still got a lot left in the tank."
But while Irvin has been demonstrating throughout training camp that he hasn't changed much from a physical standpoint from the player who spent the first four years of his career in Seattle, he has grown up plenty as a person and a leader. During Irvin's first tenure in Seattle, he learned from veteran defensive ends like Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, later moving to strongside linebacker where he started with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Now, heading into his ninth seasons, Irvin is the seasoned veteran who young players are looking up to in this camp, the guy younger players are calling "O.G." leading Irving to wonder, "Dang, am I really old. Am I really old though?"
"I'm just being B.I.," Irvin said "When I left here, I kind of started to transition into being more outspoken and being more of a leader. So at this point, I'm just being myself. I talk smack, but I also build them up. But if you're BS'ing, I'm going to let you know about it, and I expect that from them if they feel like I'm BS'ing. At this point, I'm just being myself, trying to work as hard as I can—not only just talk about it, but be about it on the field. Show these guys that, hey, B.I. talks a lot of junk, but B.I. also busts his tail in practice, he busts in tail in the game and leaves it out there for us."
One big change for Irvin since he first came into the league, he explains, is the "why" in his life. Like a lot of people who come into money at a young age, Irvin was focused on material goods early in his NFL career, but getting a little older and having a family has changed Irvin's perspective.
"My family grew, I've got more kids—my 'why' kind of transitioned," he said. "A younger B.I. my 'why" was cars, jewelry, stuff like that. And my 'why' now is my wife, my kids, my family, generational wealth. It's just a different mindset now. I'm just thankful that I was able to mature and see that. Most guys are 31 or 32 years old, still out here chasing women, buying a lot of cars, stuff like that. I was fortunate enough to really see the light and kind of transition away from that, and just focus on what really matters. I'm on the back end, so the jewelry and stuff won't matter when I'm done. My kids and my wife, that's the stuff that that's going to matter, so that's the whole reason why I've matured and really transitioned to who I am now."
Regardless of how much Irvin hasn't changed physically or has changed in terms of his maturity and leadership, he is most happy just to be back where he started his career, the place where he learned about accountability, and a place he wasn't able to fully appreciate until he went away.
"This is a very special place," Irvin said. "And it took me to leave here to really notice that. I was a young guy who would say, 'Man, I wonder how it is on another team?' And (Seahawks vice president of player engagement) Mo Kelly would always tell me, 'The grass isn't always greener.' And when I got to other teams, I really realized that it's really a good situation over here. Guys hold each other accountable and hold themselves accountable, and that's what you want—each guy believing in one goal, being connected and trying to get this thing accomplished and bring another trophy back to Seattle… When you get here, you either buy in or you don't; that's the culture here. If you don't, you'll get weeded up out of here. When I first got here, I was a young guy, I had gotten paid—most money I ever had in my career at that time, and my background was a little tough. So I had a little problem buying in and being accountable, but as I matured, my second, third or fourth year, I would say I started to make that transition and I think it carried over when I left."
Seeing Irvin mature as a man while maintaining a high level of play has been enjoyable for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who watched Irvin mature has a player and a man for four seasons from 2012-2015, and who tried to bring Irvin back to Seattle in the past, particularly in 2018 when Irvin was released by the Raiders and elected to sign with his hometown Atlanta Falcons.
"He's a great athlete for the spot," Carroll said. "He's really perfect for the position, because he's fast enough to run down the field and cover tight ends, he's terrific coming off the edge, he's got good sense for all of the little nuances about fitting runs and things like that. He's just a real vet. This was a great story for us to get him to come back. I tried to get him a couple times, we couldn't get it done in past years. Just to bring him back to us, he has just grown up so much and he's so mature about his world and his family, the whole thing. Really, it's a great story."
Photos from the 9th practice of Seahawks 2020 Training Camp, held on Monday, August 24 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Seahawks Training Camp is presented by Safeway.