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Sunday, April 29, 2012 - Page updated at 08:00 p.m.

No. 1 pick Irvin leads draft class bent on speed

By Danny O'Neil
Seattle Times staff reporter

RENTON — Rock bottom turned out to be a hard floor.

That's where Bruce Irvin was sleeping after he arrived at a California junior college in 2008, sharing a two-bedroom apartment with seven different roommates.

That low point turned out to be a launching pad as he played two seasons at Mount San Antonio College and two more at West Virginia where he developed into the player the Seahawks determined was the top pass rusher available in this draft.

And as Irvin sat on stage in the auditorium at the Seahawks' headquarters, wearing a gray suit and a million-dollar smile, it was a scene he could have never predicted.

"I would be lying to you if I told you that from where I was, I thought I was going to be here today," Irvin said.

He dropped out of high school in Georgia, spent about three weeks in jail after being arrested on suspicion of burglary and went to two different junior colleges before he really got traction on his football career.

On Saturday, he was introduced as the headliner for Seattle's 2012 draft class. That was fitting in several ways because not only was he a player no one expected the Seahawks to choose, but he plays defense and Seattle showed a clear preference for that side of the ball in this draft despite the fact its offense ranked No. 28 in yards gained.

Seven of the 10 players Seattle picked in this draft were for the defense, which wasn't what anyone expected given that defense was already the strength of Seattle's team.

But most of all, Irvin is fast. Oh, is he fast. He's a defensive end whose time of 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash would be good for a receiver.

And if there is one thread that ties together this unlikely draft, it is speed. From linebackers like second-round pick Bobby Wagner from Utah State and fifth-rounder Korey Toomer of Idaho to quarterback Russell Wilson from Wisconsin, who was the second-fastest quarterback at the scouting combine.

"There's great speed in this draft for us," coach Pete Carroll said. "That's really exciting across the board."

And Irvin is the fastest of those picks, someone the Seahawks plan to perch outside an opposing tackle and unleash like a sprinter.

"The position that we look at is tailor-made for Bruce," Carroll said.

Think Seattle chose Irvin too early in the draft? Well, he's heard that, and the truth is that he wasn't going to start watching the draft until the final six or seven picks of the first round, figuring that he would go.

Now, there's no turning back. Not after the Seahawks called.

"I don't feel like I was a reach," Irvin said. "I didn't expect I was going to be picked 15th, I'm not going to lie about that."

Then again, four years ago, he couldn't have imagined being drafted at all, yet there he was on Saturday, posing for a picture while standing between his new coach and general manager John Schneider. And as Irvin held a jersey bearing his last name and the No. 1, it was hard to tell who was happiest: The player who had overcome so much or the coach and general manager who had selected him.

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