“Every part of camp is a grind,” admitted Irwin, who is back in the mix after missing all but six quarters during the Buffaloes' 2015 season due to a torn ACL.
“I was definitely really rusty when I came back and I needed to get that swagger back. Because the second you are off the field, you forget some of the stuff you have ingrained in your muscle memory,” he added. “I have slowly been getting back to who I am used to being on the field. I would say today was another step in the right direction. I am definitely getting better.”
A shoo-in for the starting left tackle job, Irwin was given the green light from Colorado's training staff for full participation going into the summer strength and conditioning program. He has only been held back during one practice this preseason.
“We went three practices within 24 hours and coming back from an ACL, it is a little different because your knee gets tight and you need a little rest,” he said. “I have been full-go pretty much the whole time, though.”
While rehabbing his knee for eight-and-a-half months, Irwin was able to pack on some “good weight” to his 6-foot-5 frame. During his last full season with the Buffs in 2014, he weighed 280 pounds. Irwin now checks in at nearly 300-pounds with 20 percent body fat, a percentage that is lower than an average lineman.
“I beefed up my upper-body and then when I got back to lifting my lower-body, I added some strength there, too,” Irwin said. “I feel good.”
Irwin is working to prove he can be the same dependable lineman that helped CU give up the fewest amount of sacks in the Pac-12 two seasons ago. And his offensive line mates are hungry to improve their performance after giving up the most sacks in the conference last year.
“We always want to come out and have a chip on our shoulder. That is how every offensive lineman should approach it,” Irwin said. “Some of our young guys got game experience last year so there is no reason why we shouldn't be a better offensive line this year.”
Irwin has already received an undergraduate degree in Communications and he is just six credits away from earning a second undergraduate degree in History. Because he has missed the majority of two seasons at Colorado due to injury, Irwin would be a slam dunk for a medical redshirt should he choose to return to Boulder to compete with the Buffs in 2017.
“I don't really think about that,” Irwin said. “I am trying to focus on tomorrow, because coming off of this injury has been an interesting road and I am trying to get better each day. I am not really focused on the second year. If I have the opportunity to come back, that is just another option I have in my life. But as of right now I am just worried about tomorrow.”