David Irving can’t wait to throttle an offensive lineman with a powerful bull rush, creating an opportunity to do what he loves: slamming quarterbacks to the ground.
The veteran former Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders defensive tackle believes he's a compelling comeback story. The 6-foot-8, 275-pound pass rusher is training diligently in Las Vegas at Phase 1 Sports under the tutelage of Mike Waters, owner and founder of the workout facility, and trainer Trippe Hale. Irving's efforts haven't gone unnoticed as he'sdrawing interest from multiple NFL teams.
When healthy and eligible to play, Irving, 27, has proven that he's a dynamic pass rusher capable of producing big games. Irving emphasized that he's remaining patient and taking a humble and hungry approach toward the game.
“I want to show people who David Irving really is,” Irving said in a telephone interview. “I’m a fighter. I want to dominate, and it’s a different mindset. I love the fact that I can be a three-technique at my size and get past two 350-pound guys double-teaming me who can squat twice as much as me and I make the play. That’s what I live for.
“The workouts have been going great. Everything I’m learning, kung fu, jiu jitsu, boxing, all of my great training at Phase 1. That’s all helping with my movement and everything that you do on a football field. I’m the leanest I’ve been since I was 19 years old and I’m feeling explosive and I’m ready for anything that comes by way. I’m ready to play and I can’t wait to play football again.”
Released by the Raiders in May, Irving emphasized that he is eligible to be immediately signed by teams after being reinstated by the NFL last October. Following his reinstatement, he was signed to Las Vegas’ practice squad and subsequently promoted to the active roster within a week of joining the Raiders. Irving's past violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy has triggered suspensions and hindered his availability.
"I've done the necessary work," said Irving, who was indefinitely suspended in 2019 by the NFL before his reinstatement last year. "I'm compliant with all of the NFL's policies."
Daniel Moskowitz is Irving’s attorneywho successfully represented the NFL player in the reinstatement process, and affirmed that Irving is ready to go.
“Obviously, the NFL programs are confidential, so I can’t get into any specifics, but I can say that David is in the best standing he’s been in since he was a rookie with the league’s programs," Moskowitz said. "The sky is the limit. This year, David should be able to hit the ground running. That’s of great importance to his success. I think the biggest thing is when you’ve gone through past situations like David you’re weighed down by peripheral stressors. He has remedied them. From an emotional and physical standpoint, I really think he’s in the best place he’s been in years.”
A former NFC Defensive Player of the Year for his performance against the Green Bay Packers in 2016 when he forced three fumbles, recovered one with one sack and a pass deflection in 19 defensive snaps, Irving said a major motivating force in his life is his eight-year-old daughter, Zoë.
“She’s my why,” said Irving, who played collegiately at Iowa State. “I want to be able to set my daughter up so she can have options I never had in life. Growing up in Compton, we didn’t have money for school. It was either get a scholarship or go to the Marines like my dad. Being 6-foot-8 helped and I took this route. I keep leveling up. I don’t want to put my daughter in that situation. I want my daughter to be able to choose her future. My why has changed over the years as I’ve matured.”
Irving has recorded 12 ½ career sacks, five forced fumbles, 60 tackles, 17 for losses and 30 quarterback hits in 39 career games with 10 starts.
Hale expressed confidence that Irving is ready.
“David has leaned up and he’s in shape,” Hale said. “He’s so long and so explosive that it’s kind of like if you did ‘Create a Player’ on the Madden video game. He’s about 275 and he’s got explosiveness in his legs and upper body strength. It’s pretty impressive. He’s so long. He can cover so much ground running or jumping.
“When he walks in the room, you just notice the guy. He’s an absolute monster. To see the way that he can move, it’s just impressive. He’s definitely going to show his ability for sure. He’s a very easygoing, funny guy, always smiling and laughing. He’s just a good guy who’s good to be around and has good energy."
Originally signed by the Kansas City Chiefs after going undrafted, Irving wants to prove that he can provide a team with a reliable run-stopping and pass-rushing presence. In 2017 in eight games played after missing the first four games due to a suspension and another four due to a concussion, he recorded a career-high seven sacks with 19 quarterback pressures and a dozen tackles for losses.
“David is an exciting player,” said Steve Weinberg, Irving’s agent. “He has freakish athletic ability. David is looking forward to getting into a training camp and maximizing his abilities. I think this is going to be a breakthrough year for him.
“Numerous teams have said he has the talent of a perennial Pro Bowl player. He’s extra motivated. He’s on a mission to show the NFL that he can be the player most people think he can be. I think there’s going to be a team that will sign him and they’re going to get an absolute steal.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.