WVU's Bruce Irvin progressing toward his NFL dream
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Little more than a year ago, Bruce Irvin was sharing a two-bedroom apartment with eight other people in California.
Some days he ate only one meal because he couldn't afford more while attending Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College.
It wasn't exactly the dream path to success the Atlanta native wanted. But the number of days spent with an empty stomach and nights sleeping on the floor made him the player he is today.
"I didn't want to go back to Atlanta. I couldn't go back to what I was doing and the people there," said Irvin, a senior defensive end at West Virginia. "They wanted to see me fail. I couldn't go back to that."
It would be hard to believe Irvin had trouble finding success after what he accomplished last season after joining the West Virginia program in June 2010.
Irvin had 14 sacks in 2010 despite playing predominately on third downs or passing situations. He has the most sacks of any returning player in the nation.
"I'm different from a lot of people because I know how it feels to be at the bottom and rise up," Irvin said. "It feels good to know that everybody knows me, but that isn't all it's about. We still have to play football games, and I still have a dream I'm trying to reach."
With a strong senior season, Irvin likely will achieve his goal of being drafted in the NFL.
"He's as good of a pass rusher as I've seen," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Many draft experts rate Irvin as a first-round draft pick. Some, including Mountaineers defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, have compared him to former Texas A&M standout Von Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft.
"It's not hard for him to be a difference-maker because he's so big and strong," Casteel said of Irvin. "We've got to lasso him and try to get him reigned in a bit."
"I've watched a lot of film on (Miller). He's a great player, and he deserved to go No. 2 because I think he has one of the best pro potentials out there last year," Irvin said. "I can do just as much as him and probably more if I have the opportunity, which I will get this year."
Irvin knows what experts -- and those on blogs and online chat rooms -- think of him. Many players avoid message boards. Irvin loves them.
His legend is greater than his dreadlocks or his smile after pummeling a quarterback. Mountaineers fans quickly learned to chant "Bruuuce" after every tackle or sack he made last season.
Some of Irvin's detractors say he's too small to be an every-down player this season.
His response: wait and see.
Irvin hopes to add another five or six pounds and weigh 245 pounds by the season opener against Marshall. He would still be the lightest starting defensive lineman in Casteel's more-than 10-year tenure with the program.
"People haven't really seen me play. You have seen me get in there on third down, but you haven't seen me run across the field and make a tackle," Irvin said. "I feel like I have a lot of stuff to show people. I've got a lot more stuff under my belt than just rushing the quarterback.
"You're always going to have your haters. On Sept. 4, everybody will see."