Although the Auburn senior could be in line to receive a sixth-year of college eligibility in 2006 if he applies to an NCAA Committee that has the right to grant one more year for players with unusual circumstances, Irons is strongly leaning towards moving on in hopes of following in his father's footsteps as a NFL player.
"I had a real tough decision to make over Christmas," Irons tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "My dad wants me to stay. All of my family wants me to stay, but I want to leave. I'll make my final decision after the Wisconsin game."
Irons and his Auburn teammates are in Orlando preparing for the season finale where will they take on Wisconsin of the Big 10 conference in the Jan. 2nd Capital One Bowl.
"My family wants me to stay in school, but this is my decision and not my family's," Irons says. "I want to talk with Coach Gibbs (secondary coach and defensive coordinator David Gibbs) and Coach Tubs (head coach Tommy Tuberville) and let them know what I'm thinking to make sure they're comfortable with that. I want to tell them that I feel strongly that I want to go to the next level."
Irons has been Auburn's top cover man this season. He earned second team All-SEC honors in his first season playing for the Tigers.
A 2001 signee for the Tigers coming out of Dacula, Ga., High, Irons failed to qualify and instead went to Butler County Community College in Kansas to play cornerback. He suffered an ACL injury there as a freshman in preseason practice and had surgery in Kansas.
During a checkup by his family doctor back home in Dacula, Ga., to see how the knee was healing, Irons got some bad news.
"My doctor looked at my knee and he told me they didn't do a good job," Irons says. "He wanted to do the surgery over again. He was telling me about Dr. (James) Andrews and how he could fix the problem. I was like, ‘No, I can't go through another surgery. I want to play.' The doctor was telling my dad that he didn't think I could make it past the third or fourth game in junior college because my knee wasn't wasn't as strong as it should have been."
Although the knee wasn't 100 percent, Irons was able to play on it in 2002 after redshirting the previous season at Butler County. He hoped to finish his degree work in time to play three seasons at Auburn. However, he came up short academically and spent a third fall in Kansas where he was one of the top defensive players in the league even though he was still not fully recovered from the ACL surgery.
After finally getting to Auburn, in the summer of 2004 as a redshirt junior Irons was poised to take over the cornerback spot opposite Carlos Rogers until he went down with another injury to his problem knee during two-a-days. Forced to endure another surgery and a long and intense rehab, Irons says that he will always be in debt to Tuberville and Auburn for giving him another shot to prove himself.
"The past couple of years I have been injured," Irons notes. "I feel like my first doctor didn't do my surgery right. I can look at it like that and that's the reason I had the problem. The first one was a freak accident."
Although he originally tried to convince the team doctors to try to let him rehab the knee and not have surgery in the summer of 2004, the operation proved to be a success and he is became of the fastest players in the SEC during the 2005 season. "Coach Tub and them stuck with me and I love them for that," Irons says.
This season Irons has started all 10 games he's played in, sitting out the Ball State contest because of a minor injury. For the year he has made 37 tackles and broke up 10 passes while improving his play throughout the season. He says because of that and the fact that he's already 23 years old, he feels like he's ready to test himself against the best in the NFL.
"I'm kind of to the point where coming back next year would be great, but I'm also at the point where I feel like I would like to make the jump to the next level and do what I do best," Irons says. "I feel like I'm good enough. Being around Auburn the coaches they have gotten me in the right schemes. Coach Gibbs has been teaching me the right techniques.
"I'm 23 right now and while age doesn't matter, it just feels like I'm better than any DB out there," he adds. "That's my confidence level. If you pick 50 DBs in the nation I feel like I would be starting out there. That's how much confidence I have in my game. I'm kind of leaning towards that. I have to talk with Coach Gibbs and Coach Tuberville, but I want to make the jump."
His father, David Irons, Sr., says he believes his son will likely enter the draft. His younger son, Kenny Irons, will definitely be back for the 2006 season as Auburn's returning starter at tailback and a 2005 All-SEC performer, Irons says.
"I was hoping that they could play together one more year at Auburn, but David really wants to go on to the NFL," he says. "David is 23 now and he will turn 24 next season (Oct. 2nd) so that means if he stays another year he would turn 25 as a rookie in the NFL. The age factor is something he is looking at it in making his decision."
Irons Sr. says he his son has received invitations to the 2006 NFL Combine and some senior all-star games, but has turned down the all-star game invitations because he has been seriously considering a return to the Auburn team for 2006.
David Irons is shown in Auburn's Wednesday practice in Orlando.
Despite the cornerback's limited collegiate playing time, Irons Sr. says he has talked to 18 NFL teams and that 17 informed him they were interested in drafting David, Jr. with projections ranging from the late first or early second round to the sixth round. A good showing at the NFL Combine would help his stock, David Sr. says.
David Sr., who played for the NFL's Detroit Lions from 1985-89, notes that from talking to player personnel directors and general managers that some NFL people have suggested that David Jr. would benefit from one more year in college.
"The more research I have done on it the more clear it is that David will be drafted," his father says. "What I am doing is gathering the best information I can to let David make a good decision and whatever that decision is his family will have his back on it."
The Auburn senior says being close to earning his degree is a factor he has considered. "The Auburn people stayed with me when I had trouble academically and when I got here the coaches and Troy (academic counselor Troy Smith) have stayed on me and I am three classes away from graduating," he says. "I know getting that degree will put a big smile on my dad's face, my mom's face and my brother's face. I would love to do that, too."
However, Irons adds, "I have always wanted to play at the NFL level. I think that almost everybody who plays football wants to try to do that. I go out there and practice hard and play hard with the goal of making it to that level. Every little kid has a dream to be the next football star, basketball star or next great football star and that applies to me, too."