6 years after leaving college, Raiders Bruce Irvin returns to WVU to get his degree

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Oakland Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin has proven once again-- whatever the odds stacked against him, hard work and perseverance will get him to accomplish a once unimaginable feat.

On Saturday, six years after leaving college, the 30-year-old NFL star returned to West Virginia University, put on a cap and gown and walked across a stage to receive a degree in sociology.

Irvin left college early for the 2012 NFL Draft, during which he became the No. 15 overall pick. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, where he played an impressive four seasons and won a Super Bowl ring in 2014. 

In 2016 he signed a free agent contract with the Raiders and joined the Silver and Black.

For most, this would already be a pretty accomplished life. But for Irvin, he knew there was still some unfinished business he had to tackle.

"I do really well with my money, so I didn't have to get my degree. It was something I looked at that was bigger than me," Irvin said in an interview with West Virginia University's athletic department. "It's for my son. It's for my mom. And it's for everybody who really didn't believe in me. I just proved myself right," he added.

Juggling school work as an NFL player wasn't easy. While studying, Irvin had to attend practices and prepare for games each week. 

But the Georgia native is no stranger to hard times.

He's been open about the struggles he's faced growing up, chronicling a life path in his youth that could have landed him in prison or in the grave, instead of the football field.

Last year, The Players' Tribune published a powerful and moving article by Irvin, titled "The Things I've Done."

The piece begins: "I shouldn't be here. I should be locked up … or dead. Yeah, probably dead." He describes his youth, living on the streets, being homeless, getting mixed up in the wrong crowd, getting locked up, and then how football and the kindness of a total stranger changed the path of his life.

He also notes that never at one point did he not expect to make it as a professional football player.

"If you would have asked me at any of those moments if I believed that I would one day make it to the NFL, I would have said yes," Irvin wrote.

It may be that drive, that persistence, the belief in himself that helped him reach his latest accomplishment to become the first member of his family to graduate.

"People can go up to my son and say, 'Your father's an NFL player.' And he can say, 'Yeah, he's an NFL player and he also graduated from college... That's stuff money can't buy," Irvin told WVU's athletic department.

"It's a big step, big moment for me," he added.

But the newly minted college grad is not finished.  

"It's another milestone. It's another chapter in my life. But, I'm not done writing my book. I've still got a couple chapters," he said.