Former 'Eer Defenders Irvin, Lankster Represent WVU in NFL - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Former 'Eer Defenders Irvin, Lankster Represent WVU in NFL


Bruce Irvin and Ellis Lankster met on CenturyLink Field Sunday, connected by the common bond of calling themselves Mountaineers.

The two former West Virginia defenders had just wrapped up a game in which Irvin's Seattle Seahawks took out Lankster's New York Jets 28-7 and took a moment to talk and wish each other luck before heading to the locker rooms.

Whatever they said at midfield, their attention turned to their alma mater afterward.

Both Lankster and Irvin heard their names called when they entered the NFL Draft after serving out their time in a Mountaineer uniform. Lankster went off the board with the Buffalo Bills' seventh round choice, while Irvin created a stir when Seattle picked him up No. 15 overall.

The West Virginia Sack Master has always been one who receives attention for the manner with which he approaches the game, interviews and his life in general – created a sort of cult hero identity with the Mountaineer fans who welcomed him years ago.

But both he and Lankster are representative of WVU defenses that performed exceedingly well on game day before placing them in the professional ranks.

Lankster's last go around in Morgantown was back in 2008, when he walked off the field at the Meineke Car Care Bowl with a group of seniors that had accounted for the most wins in program history. Of course, he had only played at WVU for two of those four years, but the point is Lankster became accustomed to winning.

Irvin closed out his career with an Orange Bowl victory over Clemson in which he forced a fumble as part of WVU's four-turnover day. A number of Mountaineers who make up the current roster lined up alongside Irvin that day in South Florida and still more played with him each and every practice throughout the season.

To see West Virginia fall in four-straight and continue to struggle to get out of the bottom of the national rankings defensively has been difficult for both of these players who, albeit in a different conference, were once in the same shoes.

"It hurts, man," Irvin admits. "But as long as I see those guys out there that they aren't out there giving up and continuing to play hard, that's all I can ask for."

Lankster opines that the first-year struggles in the Big 12 are just that and once the newness of both the league and the defensive scheme are in the past, the team will get back to its winning ways.

"I just feel like it's the first-year coach there and I feel like West Virginia is going to come along," Lankster says.

Both of these players say in their professional days, they do all they can to represent their college years.

On Sunday, when Irvin collected his second sack of Mark Sanchez after he blew past a feeble block attempt by the Jets' right tackle, he came to the bench to greet his teammates.

Upon seeing the author of this post with his camera on the sidelines, Irvin pointed and yelled, "Dub-V all day, baby! Dub-V all day!"

"I rep that more than I rep where I'm from," says Irvin. "It's like my home now. I felt like if I ever get down, I can always go back to WVU and get a job or anything. I just try to show as much love as they showed me and that will never change."

Not to be outdone, Lankster had a sack of his own on Seattle's Russell Wilson, dislodging the ball in the process for a forced fumble on a third down deep in Seahawks territory. He, too, wears WVU on his sleeve, quite literally.

"If you look at my arm, I've got the West Virginia tattoo on me," Lankster says, pulling back his jacket to show some ink of a football with "WV" and the number 2, which he wore during his Mountaineer career. "I've been watching them. At the beginning of the season, I was happy we were 5-0. I was excited, bragging. I still am bragging, no matter if we're winning or losing, whatever it is, I'm still going to be a West Virginia fan."

New York's bye week has already passed, landing on the weekend when WVU took on TCU in Morgantown. Lankster says he planned on coming, but he is expecting his second child – a girl – any day now and couldn't leave his home in New Jersey.

Irvin, on the other hand, has definite plans for his bye week, which began just after Seattle's 28-7 win.

"I'm going to work a little bit, but I'm coming to Morgantown, baby. I'll be there for the Oklahoma game, baby," Irvin said of the Nov. 17 meeting, looking directly into the camera as though speaking directly to the WVU fans all the way across the country. "I'm going to try to sneak back in the No. 11 jersey and try to get back on the field."

Before anyone in gold and blue could get their hopes up, he laughed and added, "No, I'm just going to go out there and talk to my boys and try to get them hyped and hopefully we pull this win out on Saturday."

He says he has not been asked to give an official speech of some sort, but he fully intends to meet with his old teammates and "let them know what's up."

"Those are still my brothers," says Irvin. "I would give up everything to go play with them. But it is what it is and those boys are down there working and they're going to get it turned around."

There is no denying that the team needs a spark wherever it can find one and if Irvin's visit helps add anything to WVU's quest to avoid a five-game losing streak and become bowl eligible, the Mountaineers will take it.

These two Mountaineers in the NFL have made it clear, though, that regardless of the ups and downs their old team may have, they will continue to represent West Virginia University no matter how distant their view of Morgantown becomes down the road.  

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