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Boomer Bio: Bronson Irwin
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Sooner offensive line in the trenches
The process of removing all the tape from Bronson Irwin was extensive, to say the least. Layer upon layer covered nearly every joint of his body. A couple of rolls were saved just for his left ankle — the one he rolled midway through the season, but pretends it doesn’t bother him.
That was just for a Tuesday practice. It’s a process that takes a lot of time, but is necessary to keep Oklahoma’s left guard on the practice field and game ready.
“It’s been difficult fighting through, but everyone has to play the cards they’re dealt,” said Irwin. “You just keep going forward with it.”
Going forward means playing every possible snap on Saturday, along with every one in practice Monday through Thursday. There is little to no rest for the Sooners’ weary junior offensive lineman. By November, injuries had sliced the group’s depth from hearty to lean to skeletal.
Irwin joins fellow guard Adam Shead in somehow being able to keep himself in the lineup despite the challenge of meeting 300-pound defensive linemen face-to-face on a regular basis.
“There's no question. Bronson is a ‘War Daddy.’ He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve been around,” said OU guards and tackles coach James Patton. “He can have a bad ankle sprain and just keeps going at it. You saw him come off in the Cotton Bowl. He came back in. Then he taped it up and came back in. He’s practiced during the week even though he’s really sore. He just lets the adrenaline take over and he plays his butt off.”
Toughness is a prerequisite where offensive linemen are concerned at Oklahoma. Mixing it up in the trenches is not for the faint of heart. The season is one relentless grind of constant collisions, and the aches and pains they cause.
Irwin never dreamed of doing anything else. The Mustang, Okla., native always imagined he would end up wearing the crimson and cream.
“Growing up, I went to a lot of OU games,” said Irwin. “My whole family is really just a bunch of OU fans. This was always the dream of mine growing up as a kid.”
Getting the scholarship offer, which Irwin accepted as a junior in high school, is only part of it. It’s being on Owen Field on those incredible fall Saturdays. It’s making that critical block that springs a long run that spurs the desire for offensive linemen to want to be Sooners.
Irwin had only gotten a taste of those things in his first two seasons. He played in every game in 2011 as a sophomore, but needed to make a leap if he was going to become a starter.
As soon as the calendar flipped to 2012, Irwin did just that.
“I went through the offseason with the anticipation of being a starter,” he said. “I was in position physically and mentally to step right in. I never missed a beat.”
The Sooners were fortunate he did. Irwin’s main competition for a starting job — three-year starter Tyler Evans — suffered a knee injury two days into preseason practice.
It may have left the impression Irwin got his job by default. Patton doesn’t see it that way.
“It all goes back to what he did in the offseason. He had a great winter, spring and summer,” said Patton. “You could tell the way he’d worked with his conditioning. He’s a guy that wanted it and wanted it really bad.”
Irwin won’t give it up either. It’s late in the season and his body aches relentlessly. But he refuses to even miss a practice.
“If you watch the clip of him getting rolled up in the Texas game, it is gross and it looks like it’s broken. Then the same thing happens against Iowa State,” said center Gabe Ikard. “It seems like it happens in every game, and the guy is just really tough. Me and Coach Patton call him the ‘War Daddy.’ I know every Saturday no matter how much pain he’s in — if he can go, he’s gonna go. He’s played really well for us this year. All credit to him and his mental and physical toughness. He’s gone with the motto: I can let it heal after the season.”
Patton hoped that’s what he would get when he recruited Irwin four years ago. He was the best lineman in the state in 2009. But most of those accolades were based on size, speed and strength.
What has endeared Irwin to his teammates and coaching staff is the one thing that’s toughest to measure.
“It all starts with the way he was raised. He’s a Mustang, Oklahoma, kid,” said Patton. “Every time he steps on that field out there, there’s a lot of pride and a lot of heart. He’d give just about anything to play out there.”
(Editor's Note: This story appears in the Bedlam issue of Sooner Spectator. To subscribe, call toll free 1-877-841-8877)