David Irving has nothing but good things to say about the Kansas City Chiefs.
After all, they were the only organization willing to give a troubled, but talented college player a chance to make it in the NFL.
The door the Chiefs opened eventually led to a spot on the Dallas Cowboys’ 53-man roster in 2015. The Cowboys signed him off the Chiefs’ practice squad, and he’s developed into a disruptive interior force as the under tackle in Rod Marinelli’s Tampa 2 defensive scheme.
Irving, who served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy to start this season, has five sacks in three games. He also has two passes defensed and one forced fumble.
“It’s a great position for him because he can bend,” Marinelli said. “He’s got great flexibility in there. Boy, his length inside matters. He uses it well cause he’s an athlete. I think he’s playing really well. I think he can play a lot better yet.”
That’s saying something considering Irving is on pace for 20 sacks this season. Heck, if he didn’t miss the season’s opening four games, he might find himself with teammate DeMarcus Lawrence (10.5 sacks) atop the season’s sack lists.
“I think about that. You know … I’m an idiot,” Irving said, laughing. “I missed out on that opportunity.”
It isn’t the first opportunity Irving has missed. He’s very open about his troubled past.
This is a guy who former Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads once felt would become a first-team all-Big 12 player in his college career, but was kicked out of college his junior year by Rhoads.
The final straw?
A social media picture circulated showing Irving holding a stop sign during the 2014 Veishea riot (Veishea was a week-long festival at Iowa State that featured entertainers and distinguished guests).
Prior to that, Irving also had a domestic assault charge filed against him. It was eventually thrown out.
Irving can only shake his head at his previous missteps, but says he has turned his life around on and off the field.
“I made some bad decisions up there, wrong place, wrong time, whatever you want to say about it. It happened,” Irving said. “I lost my scholarship because of it. I would’ve been the first in my family to graduate from college and I messed that up. So I messed up a lot.
“I think about now, my family’s finances and how they would be had I finished college and maybe go first round. Now I’m an undrafted free agent, a much different position.”
Irving didn’t play football in what should have been his senior season. He just worked out at home and hoped to get an opportunity at the pro level.
Iowa State wasn’t exactly a powerhouse during Irving’s time there, so he already faced an uphill battle. And most teams distance themselves from any players with the red flags that Irving had.
The Chiefs, though, gave him an opportunity and he showed enough promise to land a practice squad spot. Before he knew it, the Cowboys came calling and he’s been with them ever since.
And he’s been worth the risk so far.
“His development has been outstanding,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He really has a lot of potential. He’s a big, strong athletic guy. Has great quickness and explosiveness. Great instincts and feel for the game. He just needs to play and he’s in a great environment to learn.”
It’s been quite the journey for Irving, who felt his NFL career may have been over before it ever truly began. Getting kicked out of Iowa State could have easily been the end of his football days.
“I look back all the time. It’s crazy how it turns out,” Irving said. “I never thought I’d be in the NFL regardless once I left Iowa State. It’s been crazy, man. It’s changed my life. And, again, if the Chiefs hadn’t have called me, I wouldn’t even be here right now. I don’t know where I would be.
“It changed my life and I’m grateful for that. Now I’m here and I’m grateful for this opportunity. I look back on it all the time, man. It’s life changing.”
On Sunday, Irving will face the only organization he’s known other than the Cowboys. He knows as well as anyone the challenge the Chiefs present.
They have one of the top offenses in the game with play-makers across the board. Quarterback Alex Smith is second in the league in passing, running back Kareem Hunt leads the league in rushing and tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill are in the top-10 of receiving yards.
“We need to make them one-dimensional because, if they can run and pass, then they’re dangerous in both,” Irving said. “That’s going to be hard. [Hunt] has been running. I like the way he’s moving back there. We’re working on containing him because [Smith] can get out and extend the play, sort of like [Green Bay QB Aaron] Rodgers has been able to do, and make plays down the field. They’ve got some fast guys and can’t cover them forever. So we’re going to have to rush him smart.”
Cowboys vs. Chiefs
3:25 p.m. Sunday, KTVT/11