2012 NFL Combine: West Virginia's Bruce Irvin Turns in First-Round Numbers

Zach Campbell@@newvalleybluesCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 04:  Bruce Irvin #11 of the West Virginia Mountaineers looks on against the Clemson Tigers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

As usual, there were a handful of lauded athletes that were expected to put on a show at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis: Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Matt Kalil to name just a few. 

While they lived up to the hype preceding their combine appearances, there were also just as many NFL prospects looking to emerge from the shadow cast by their more illustrious peers and make a name for themselves. 

One of those participants is West Virginia's Bruce Irvin.  The Atlanta, GA native landed in Indianapolis seeking to make a name for himself as a 3-4 outside linebacker prospect entering the draft. 

Boy, did he succeed. 

While his 23 repetitions on the bench press was solid, if not necessarily earth-shattering, it's what Irvin accomplished in the 40-yard dash that has the NFL community suddenly shining its light on the West Virginia star. 

At 6'3" and 245 pounds, one might expect a 40-time in the neighborhood of, say, 4.6-4.7, but 4.43? That's, well, absurd.

In fact, that's two tenths of a second faster than Oregon star RB LaMichael James. 

It was no secret that Irvin was a fast, undersized defensive end who specialized in terrorizing opposing quarterbacks in a specialist role.  It was also well known that Irvin was, during his time in the JUCO circuit, a safety of all things.  So the speed isn't that surprising. 

But take into account Irvin's size and almost non-stop motor, and suddenly Bruce Irvin goes from relative wild card to veritable contender for a top-32 selection. 

Of course, there are still the more gilded front-runner linebacker prospects in the 2012 class who Irvin must compete with, such as Courtney Upshaw, Whitney Mercilus and Nick Perry. So far though, Irvin has demonstrated that he possesses the elite athleticism to carry him into the first round. 

Irvin's background also paints the picture that he isn't a flash-in-the-pan athlete who will pick and choose when he exerts himself at the next level. 

Irvin, a one-time high school dropout and drifter with no real future in front of him, worked his way up from obscurity in the junior college ranks to earn a scholarship at West Virginia and collect over 20 sacks along the way.

Simply put, Bruce Irvin has trekked a treacherous, uphill course to get to where he is today and he'll likely pay it forward at the next level by being a workhorse.

With his combine duties now behind him, Irvin can look forward to April 26th with a heightened sense of optimism. As for the rest of this year's outside linebacker corp, the field just got a little more crowded.