David Irving is charming, bright, intelligent, engaging and he’s just about ready to blow it all, too.
Depending on whom you believe.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive end will return to the team for their game Sunday against the Green Bay Packers having completed his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
The sad part is that he’s good enough to be effective without a bump. We’re not talking about J.J. Watt-good, but a quality NFL defensive end for the next few years making six and seven figures.
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With DeMarcus Lawrence blowing up his side of his line, Irving is in the perfect position to collect easy sacks, make a difference for his team, and cash in with a nice, life-altering pay day.
All he has to do is be the person he says he is, and not some of the ugly for which he must be accountable.
The question for the Cowboys, and the NFL, is, who is David Irving? Is he a bright baller, or is he con artist?
Only he knows.
He’s on a one-year contract, he’s only 24 and he can be a restricted free agent after the season. One more transgression with the Cowboys and he’s likely gone.
“I know this is it for me,” he said Wednesday. “I would love to stay here. I’d love to be with the Cowboys. I mean, because of the time I missed in college, this has basically been like college years for me.”
Irving is a guy who grew up in San Jacinto, Calif., yet is known to tell friends and acquaintances he was raised in the more difficult area of Compton, Calif. Per a map, it’s an 86-mile drive from the neighborhood made famous by Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, and the area where Irving attended high school.
“He’s a really nice, sweet guy but, for some reason, he wants people to think he grew up in the ’hood,” one of Irving’s former associates told me in a phone interview. “I don’t get it. He wants people to think he lives that life.”
David Irving is so much better than this, and he takes exception to the notion he didn’t grow up in a less-than-great neighborhood.
“I did grow up in Compton,” he told me in the Cowboys’ locker room on Wednesday. “I went to high school in San Jacinto.”
No one as bright and as engaging and thoughtful as a David Irving should be dealing with these situations.
He can easily win a few interviews because he knows exactly what to say, and what sounds good. Manipulating a reporter or two, especially in this day and age, can be frighteningly easy.
Since his high school days in Southern California, Irving was never the highest-profile prospect. He was basically ignored coming out of high school, and only had minimal interest from Iowa State, UNLV, Oregon State and Duke.
During his career at Iowa State, Irving ran afoul of the law on multiple occasions; in 2014, he was seen holding a stop sign during what is called the “Veishea riot.” Veishea is a student-run party that is renowned for excessive partying in Ames.
Irving says he was handed the stop sign and had it in his hands for a few seconds.
That was one year before he was accused of assaulting his girlfriend, who was the mother of their daughter. She later asked that the charges be dropped.
He was eventually kicked off the Cyclones, which was the biggest reason he went undrafted in 2015. Iowa State is not exactly flush with talented players, so then head coach Paul Rhoads didn’t dump Irving for any other reason than he felt it was a move that had to be made.
The Kansas City Chiefs signed Irving as a rookie free agent, and the Cowboys grabbed him shortly after he was put on the Chiefs’ practice squad.
He was the quintessential NFL JAG (Just a Guy), until last season when he showed his team he can play. In 15 games, he had four sacks and five passes defended.
Again, we’re not talking about the second coming of Von Miller, but a legit NFL player.
Remember, before this season started and Tank Lawrence showed what he is currently showing, Irving was projected as the Cowboys’ best pass rusher.
With Charles Tapper expected to be placed on injured reserve with a foot injury, Irving can expect to play right away against the Green Bay Packers. He’s 6-foot-7, 285 pounds with plenty of athletic ability and instincts to be a good player on Sunday, or any other Sunday.
“He’s a beast,” fellow defensive end Benson Mayowa said.
Since joining the NFL, Irving also has been fired by agents, and had this suspension as well.
Take all his previous incidents individually and each can be explained, not always justified. Take these incidents together and it doesn’t always add up.
Mac Engel: @macengelprof