If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you with a $100,000 donation, then it surely loves you back. That is exactly what happened with former West Virginia and current Seattle Seahawks pass rushing fiend Bruce Irvin.
Earlier this season, Irvin gave a little something back to the program that helped him to become one of the premier sack men in his first year in the NFL.
According to a WVU athletic department release, the Seattle rookie cut a six-figure check to the Mountaineer Athletic Club (the school's athletic fund raising entity), which will be used to help fund the upcoming construction of a new weight room at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“We had a down year but no matter the situation, I’m still always going to rep West Virginia,” Irvin said in the release. “I prayed about it and I talked to a lot of people and I just felt like in my heart it was the right decision. I’m pretty comfortable, and I can afford $100,000 to something that matters and will be used. Having my name in the weight room will mean a lot to me.”
Originally an Atlanta native, Irvin was loved by Mountaineer Nation from the second he step foot in Morgantown. Every time Irvin was able to wrestle down the opposing quarterback, the WVU faithful would erupt in cheers of "Bruuuuuuce!"
This happened quite often.
Irvin transferred to WVU from Mt. San Antonio—a junior college in southern California. And in just two years in gold and blue, he tallied 23 sacks—putting him at No. 4 in school history.
He has continued that success at the next level, already netting eight sacks—good enough for Seattle's rookie franchise record.
"Congrats to @birvin_wvu11 for setting the Seahawks rookie sack record on Sunday. His 8 beats Leroy Hill's 7.5 in 2005."—Brian Nemhauser (@hawkblogger) December 13, 2012
Seattle fans are beginning to understand why Mountaineer fans were so infatuated with Irvin. They've even adopted the "Bruuuuce!" chant.
Irvin has spent his season proving the pundits wrong with his play on the field. Many analysts labeled Seattle's selection of him at No. 15 overall as a reach, claiming that he shouldn't have been drafted so early.
With Irvin, the Seahawks have allowed just 15.5 points per game, slotting them at No. 2 in the NFL, and as the team has flourished together, so has Irvin individually.
“I’m in the perfect situation,” Irvin said. “I’ve got a great group of veterans around me teaching me how to be a player on and off the field. It’s just the best situation for me and I’m in a great position to succeed.”
No matter where Irvin goes, he'll never forget where he came from.
In fact, his Twitter handle still is BIrvin_WVU11. However, his social media moniker is merely a minor representation of his deep connection with the university and its fanbase.
Irvin came from a troubled background in Atlanta and was able to find refuge on the football field. He dropped out of high school when he was 18 and began to make his life on the streets.
Thayer Evans of Fox Sports chronicled this defining moment in his feature on Irvin from 2011:
The day after the arrest, November 14, 2007, a date Irvin has never forgotten, his friend called and pleaded with him to make the most of his raw athletic ability.
"You're blessed with something that a lot of dudes don't have," Irvin recalls his friend telling him. "Man, go to school and whatever you do, don't look back."
Irvin took his friend's advice, enrolling at Butler Community College in Kansas. He never did play football at Butler, but ended up transferring to Mt. San Antonio. There, his football career would blossom, but it wouldn't have happened without family support.
To cover tuition and living costs, his mother, step father, aunt, uncle and others all contributed what they could so Irvin could chase his dream.
Hearing this story, it is no surprise that Irvin was quick to give back to those who have helped him.
From Mt. San Antonio, Irvin could have gone anywhere, but he chose WVU, not quite understanding that he was adding thousands of members to his already supportive family.
“It certainly helped me,” Irvin said of his two seasons at WVU. “I could have gone to any school in the country coming out of junior college, and I chose West Virginia because I felt like it was the perfect fit and it was. Not talking bad about my family, but playing for that state and that school…you’re family. It taught me a lot about loyalty and going into the draft, the only people who believed in me were West Virginians. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters."
After two years in the WVU family, Irvin understands as well as anyone what it truly means to be a Mountaineer. He proved this with his recent donation—a gesture that shows his appreciation for the program and fan base that supported him so vehemently.
“I’ve got a lot of love for the state and the University and coming from my situation, they gave me a chance when I was in junior college,” Irvin said. “[Late WVU coach] Bill Stewart gave me a chance to display my talents on the Division I level and I felt like it was only right to give back for the younger kids."
The more Irvin gives back to WVU, the more live Mountaineer Nation will return to him. When news came out of his donation, West Virginia faithful took to Twitter to thank the humble star.
This kind of interpersonal support is something Irvin is used to seeing from WVU fans—it's also something he'll never grow tired of.
“I see them in airports and everywhere and there is always love,” he said. “We talk. That’s just the West Virginia people. They are good-hearted people, down-to-earth, and it was just a perfect situation for me.”