DENVER (CBS4) – The Denver Broncos third round draft pick, Nate Irving, is 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds. It’s that size and strength that may have saved his life.

John Elway and company had Irving rated as the top inside linebacker in the draft. He’s been all smiles these days — he’s a Bronco and he’ll be competing to be a starting middle linebacker as a rookie. He’s a young man beginning his career with his whole life in front of him. He’s also lucky to be alive.

In 2009 Irving had left home and was driving back to school at North Carolina State when he fell asleep at the wheel.

“I don’t remember anything that happened, but the police report says that I over-corrected and I ran off the road to the right and I flipped my truck over a few times and I hit trees,” Irving said. “I was just lying out there until they came and got me.”

Irving suffered a separated shoulder, a cracked rib, a punctured lung and an open compound fracture in his leg. He never doubted he would play football again.

“I felt like that once my parents were there and I understood what I’d been through; how I understood it was just an accident and my family was there; I felt like that if I didn’t die in the accident, then God has a plan for me,” he said.

Irving said he’s relived the accident hundreds, if not thousands of times. He even recreated that fateful night for Raycom Sports in North Carolina. He told Raycom on impact the dashboard of his truck came down on him and that’s how he broke his leg. He said he was wearing his seatbelt, but his seat broke backwards and he slid out of the front seat into the backseat. He stayed in the backseat until the paramedics came and got him.

“While I was in the hospital, two other people were in accidents not nearly as half as bad as mine, and a lady had to get her leg amputated,” he said. “And another man who fell asleep, he died behind the wheel. And his car didn’t look half as bad as mine. I felt like I could have very well died in the accident.”

Irving said surviving the crash makes him appreciate life more.

“The little things; the stuff I used to complain about — early morning practices, weightlifting in the morning; and just the small things. It just taught me to enjoy all of it while you can.”

He never wants to forget that night, so he tattooed the date on his forearm. It’s a constant reminder about how life can change in an instant.

He made a public service announcement about driving drowsy. In the PSA he says that he could have killed somebody and that driving drowsy is just as dangerous as driving drunk.

Irving still has some metal parts holding his leg together. Some teams were probably scared off by that. Not the Broncos. The way they see it, if Irving could overcome what he did to play football again, they don’t care if the detector goes off at airport security.


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