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Sports >  UW football

Why Julius Irvin is still at Washington … and ready to embrace a predestined position

Sept. 8, 2022 Updated Thu., Sept. 8, 2022 at 9:19 p.m.

By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Julius Irvin is not a quitter.

For now, he’s a cornerback.

The fifth-year junior made the switch from safety 1½ weeks ago, when minor injuries to backups Elijah Jackson and Davon Banks exposed a concerning lack of quality depth at corner. And yes, the 6-foot-1, 179-pounder had never played the position.

But according to co-defensive coordinator William Inge, that’s hardly the point.

“We’re definitely in the process of making sure you get your best players on the football field,” Inge said Monday, “and Julius is one of our most talented players that we have on defense.”

He may also be predestined to succeed at that particular spot. Julius’ father, LeRoy Irvin, played 11 seasons at cornerback in the NFL and was a four-time All-Pro (1981, 1982, 1985, 1986) with the Los Angeles Rams.

“I wasn’t even born (when he played),” Julius said Tuesday. “So I didn’t see it, but I definitely heard stories that he’s told me. It’s definitely an honor. My dad laid a path for me and has always given me great advice. So I’m just very grateful to have that knowledge and have him in my corner.”

Oh, and speaking of corner: When starter Jordan Perryman exited with an injury in the third quarter of UW’s 45-20 win over Kent State last Saturday, Irvin was thrust into action at a relatively unfamiliar spot. Inge said “we didn’t put a whole lot on his plate (in practice). It became a scenario where he had to drink from the fire hose in the game. We kept it very basic for him, and he definitely has a good skill set to do the things that we need on a play-by-play basis.”

UW coach Kalen DeBoer added that “Julius is a guy that can run. Guys that can run can step out there and need to be on the football field for us.”

In the fourth quarter, the former Servite (Anaheim, California) High School standout nearly ran right into his second career interception, when he jumped a slant and saw the football clatter off his hands.

“I just had a feeling, and once (the receiver) released right into my body I knew he was going to break off into a slant,” he said. “I definitely should have caught that one. That should have been six. That one kept me up (at night).”

Redemption might be right around the corner. Though Perryman – who sustained an upper-left leg injury – may play Saturday against Portland State, Irvin’s versatility should prove invaluable in his fifth season in Seattle. Rather than fusing himself to a permanent position, Irvin prides himself on operating as a glorified utility player.

“I always told them, ‘Wherever you need me, I want to be there and be available,’ ” he said. “I look at myself as a utility guy, a guy that can slide all across the field. That’s kind of what I did in high school, so having that role has honestly just been a great experience for me. It’s just been exciting for me to step into that.”

It’s likely exciting to step on the field in any capacity, considering Irvin has made just two starts (with 14 tackles, three passes defended and an interception) in 24 career games. That’s after the NFL legacy DB was regarded as a four-star recruit, the No. 12 safety and the No. 156 player in the 2018 class by the 247Sports Composite.

Irvin amassed 52 tackles, five interceptions, 554 receiving yards and 46.2 yards per reception in his senior season at Servite. His five official visits were to UW, Utah, Notre Dame, Alabama and Michigan.

He could have gone just about anywhere. He went to Washington.

At which point, Irvin was forced to wait.

“When you come out of high school, you think you’re the hottest thing in your area,” he said. “Which may be true, but you’ve got to fall in line when you get to college. There’s different situations you might fall into as far as the depth chart and the guys ahead of me. I knew the guys in the room when I arrived freshman year were all NFL guys. Look at them: They all went to the NFL.

“It allowed me to sit behind them and learn how to approach the game and learn many different facets from many different people. It’s really helped me a lot, in growing my knowledge on the field and off the field.”

Which, Irvin said, is why he’s still here. Cornerbacks Kyler Gordon (who shared his class) and Trent McDuffie (who arrived a year later) are preparing for season openers in the NFL. Others encountered adversity and disappeared – poof! – into the transfer portal.

Irvin, meanwhile, is a utility man. If he’s making an impact here, he doesn’t care where.

“The thing that’s kept me here is just family and the city of Seattle,” Irvin said. “Everyone I’ve run into and all the people I’ve known and all the friends I’ve met is something that’s kept me here. And as far as the UW legacy of DBs, I want to continue that and I don’t want to leave just because things aren’t going my way.

“I’m not that type of person. I like to see things through. Seattle’s been great to me. Regardless of football, I’ve made a lot of friends, made a lot of great connections, and it’s a beautiful city. I just can’t wait. When it’s my turn, I’m going to be ready.”

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