Linebacker Bruce Irvin
Oakland Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin is only 29 years old, but he's the oldest player in the Silver and Black linebackers room, and has seen plenty over the course of his five years in the NFL.
From totaling eight sacks in his rookie year, to winning a Super Bowl his second year, and taking two interceptions to the house in his third season, Irvin brings a wealth of experience to a relatively young linebackers group – rookie Marquel Lee is the youngest at 21 years old.
At one point or another, everyone sees themselves transform from the student to the teacher, and that is the current situation the former West Virginia Mountaineer finds himself in, which is peculiar in his eyes.
"It's very strange, very strange," Irvin said prior to practice Thursday. "It's good in a lot of ways, they look up to me, but they also think I'm an old guy."
While No. 51 might be the old dog in the yard, you wouldn't know it from his athleticism and demeanor on the field. In 2016, Irvin led all Raiders with six forced fumbles, which was also tied for most in the league alongside Atlanta Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley, Jr., while also adding seven sacks, and 57 tackles in the process.
If there's one thing you'd never question about the 6'3", 250-pound linebacker, it's the confidence he has in himself, as well as his teammates. Confidence goes a long way in this league, and it's an attribute Irvin believes to be essential for young players like Lee.
"The biggest thing is you've got to be confident," Irvin stated. "Marquel is the MIKE [middle linebacker] so he's basically the D.C. [Defensive Coordinator] of the defense. He has the mic, he calls the plays, so as a younger guy being in charge of the defense you have to be confident. If you make a call, you go with the call, you can't be out there confused."
Irvin is a vocal leader, but also leads through his actions.
His passion for the game exudes on every snap, whether he's posing with his arms crossed after a sack, or showing his intensity through pure physical strength, Irvin is the veteran presence any rookie would want to have in their ear.
Now in a mentorship role, and a tad older, Irvin is realizing how much his voice resonates with the rookies, and is seeing their eagerness to learn from him.
"I feel like they listen more, they're trying to find their way," he added. "They haven't played a real NFL game yet, I try to tell them don't live off the preseason stuff because it's going to be different come Sunday."
Irvin makes a great point; sure, the preseason is a time to grow and get your feet under you before the real action occurs, and when it does it's a whole new ball game. The best way to combat the learning curve is to continue getting experience, and as he's said, stay confident in what's gotten you to this point.
"I try to tell those guys just be confident," Irvin reiterated. "At the end of the day it's just football, we've been playing this game all our life."
While Lee and second-year linebacker Cory James are among several young players who have much to learn, they've got a veteran in Irvin who's willing to help them grow.