And Irvin, too, eventually came to appreciate that getting all that attention was just as valuable as getting sacks because perhaps even more than a few more sacks it changed the game.
"The stats are always great and you always have personal goals you want to reach,'' Irvin said. "But I'm just happy that I made it through the season healthy, no serious injuries and we're going to a BCS bowl. Those are the main two things I wanted and they both happened.''
Indeed, Irvin made it through the season healthy, which was important both to the WVU defense and to Irvin personally. Anyone looking at Irvin's situation objectively can see that college football, while certainly a destination for a guy from a rather troubled background, is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to play at the next level and be paid well for it.
Irvin was asked if that's what he meant when he said one of his main goals was to get through his senior season healthy.
"Ah, man, now you're getting personal there,'' he said.
Perhaps, but it's still a valid question.
"Sure, you think about your future, but you don't think about it like that,'' Irvin said. "No one wants to get hurt. I don't want to go out there and tear my ACL or blow my shoulder out. But that's not the only reason I didn't want to get hurt.''
No, but it's a pretty good one.
"Yeah, I suppose it is,'' Irvin said. "Sure, I think about the NFL. And you can't get hurt [to have a chance to play at that level]. Nobody wants banged-up players. I think about it sometimes, but at the end of the day West Virginia is the only thing that's important right now. And me being healthy helps this team. I think that's more of a reason to stay healthy than me worrying about my future.''
So, through all that he faced this season and the diminished sack total, does Irvin see himself as a better player than he was when he arrived last year from junior college?
"I think overall I am,'' Irvin said. "I learned a lot more about football than I did last year. I was young to the game last year. That was really my second year playing after a six-year break. So yeah, I think I was better this year than I was last year, a more complete player this year.
"I'm not going sit here and tell you stories. It was sure nice to get 14 sacks last year. But things don't always work like that and it's a team game. I'm just happy to be in the position we're in and playing in a BCS bowl. I would rather be in my situation with 71/2 sacks or whatever I've got and going to a BCS bowl than to be what we were last year and have 14 sacks and getting our butts beat in the ... what was that, the Champs Sports Bowl?''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.