Weight: 242 pounds
School: North Carolina State
40 Time: 4.59 seconds
Bench Press Reps: 19
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – There are few better stories in this year’s draft class than Nate Irving’s: his comeback from serious injuries sustained in a June 2009 automobile accident is one of the more inspirational stories to grace the Broncos in recent years.
From a football perspective, Irving’s recovery appeared all the more impressive because he converted from weakside to middle linebacker upon returning to the Wolfpack in 2010. But Irving maintained that this was not an issue
“It was really not a big transition because of the way our defense was set up; the (weakside) and the (middle) were both stacked linebackers inside the box,” Irving said. “The only thing I had to adjust was my vision. As a (weakside linebacker)I see lot of things coming towards me from the sideline, but in the middle, they come from a lot of different angles.”
He dealt with thise angles well enough to post seven sacks and finish sixth in the nation with 21.5 tackles for losses last year. He was not merely back from a broken rib, fractured tibia, separated shoulder and punctured lung; he appeared to be better than before.
At minimum, he demonstrated he could handle the middle. While Broncos head coach John Fox declined to peg Irving as a MLB-in-waiting, executive vice president John Elway placed him in that spot.
“Nate Irving is an instinctual MLB who is a good fit for the type of defense we are building – tough and always around the ball,” Elway Tweeted after the pick was made.
But given his work on the weak side, he could go either way.
“He has skills to do both. He did both in college,” Fox said. “We did a lot of research. He’s a terrific player. He plays football very physically, and yet he does have the skill set as far as catching the ball and making plays on the outside and the inside.”
“He’s a guy we had our eyes on all the way. He’s a guy we identify with what we’re doing.”