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Originally published April 26, 2012 at 9:24 PM | Page modified April 27, 2012 at 9:43 AM

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With a wide-open road ahead of them, the Seahawks took the path least traveled

Bruce Irvin is a "trust-me" selection by the Seattle front office

Seattle Times staff columnist

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I think this can be a legit pick. Just keep him away from Pioneer Square, Belltown... MORE
You failed to mention that when he was in court All-Charges were Dropped!! MORE
Bruce Irvin will be a great pass rusher in the NFL. For those who have not seen him... MORE

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RENTON — Unless you were inside the VMAC war room or inside Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's head, or some other place where you weren't invited on Thursday, you couldn't have seen this one coming.

Bruce Irvin?

Wasn't he the raw-as-a-floor-burn prospect who was supposed to be picked Friday; a pass-rushing, second-round selection who maybe, just maybe, could be one of the steals of the NFL draft?

The Seahawks came into the first round Thursday needing a pass rusher. It was their vaguely-disguised top priority.

And, after trading down from 12 to 15, it was their good fortune that every available pass rusher still was on the board.

They could have taken the prototypical guy, North Carolina's Julius Peppers-like Quinton Coples. Or they could have taken the guy Carroll gushed about Monday at the predraft news conference, South Carolina's versatile. Melvin Ingram.

They could have chosen a pass rusher who didn't have a police record.

They could have gone with the safest, sanest pick.

But they took the road not traveled. They chose a player Carroll scouted in college, a guy he wanted at USC, but couldn't get into school.

They had their pick of pass rushers, and they chose the most obscure and the most controversial.

Bruce Irvin better be good.

And, both Carroll and general manager John Schneider practically promised he would be.

"We recruited him and we knew him very well," Carroll said. "We had a very close relationship through the recruiting process. I've known this guy for a long time. I know what he brings to a football team, the excitement that he generates. The speed that he brings is so unique and so rare.

"I love that we have a background with the kid, so we knew him all the way through. Maybe some of the other teams didn't. They didn't know what the guy was all about and what he brings. We thought we had special information, and we're really excited about this kid."

The NFL has become a passing league, and the highest priority for a defense is a pass rusher as explosive as nitroglycerin.

With the false-start roar that Seahawk fans bring into Century-Link Field, fast pass rushers are even more deadly in Seattle. Chris Clemons revived his career when he came to the Seahawks from Philadelphia.

"This is the guy who really puts the fear in offensive tackles," Carroll said of Irvin. "This is a rare guy, a rare chance to get a guy like this. What separated him from the other defensive ends was that he has extraordinary speed and tremendous flexibility.

"And he has great instincts and he has a great motor, all of the things that make up a great pass rusher. He's got incredible get-off, something that we cherish here. He chases the football. He's physical. He's got great effort."

Irvin was the fastest defensive lineman at the combine. Both Carroll and Schneider compared his ability to get off the ball with Dwight Freeney, Von Miller, Jevon Kearse, Chris Doleman, Derrick Thomas ... pretty much every great pass rusher who ever lived.

Still, Irvin is a gamble. This is a show-me pick. There are those red-flag items.

Irvin has to prove that his off-the-field problems are part of his past. He was jailed on two charges while he was in high school. And he was arrested in March after an incident at a sandwich shop. He was in court just two days before the draft.

"This is a young man who's had a lot to overcome in his life," Schneider said. "This guy's had a rough story, no doubt about it."

Listening to Irvin's first interview as a Seahawk, it was easy to see what Carroll liked about him. Irvin oozes a Carroll-like confidence. He talks at Pete speed.

"I feel like I'm a great athlete," he said.

"I love eating quarterbacks," he said.

"I've heard I'm a one-trick pony," he said. "But the crazy thing is I got 23 sacks in two years (at West Virginia) and I've never been coached. If I get a little coaching, just imagine what I can do."

This is a pick that screams, "Trust us." A wait-and-see pick that was coldly courageous.

"We did a good thing today," Carroll said.

Bruce Irvin better be good.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists

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