However, he was somewhat disappointed because none of the schools were a Division I college. He eventually enrolled at Brevard College in North Carolina. He tried to accept the fact that he would probably never play Division I football.
However, some dreams die hard and Irby decided to transfer to Georgia State University in 2010 hoping to walk-on to a Division I football team.
“I transferred to Georgia State because it has an excellent academic record and I thought I might have a chance to walk-on to the football team,” Irby said. The Panthers began competing in 2010 under Coach Bill Curry. He previously coached at Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia Tech.
Because he transferred, he was required to sit out the 2010 season.
“I missed football so much that fall, it was hard to even attend a football game,” said Irby. “I talked to Coach Curry and he told me about the walk-on process which included paperwork and tryouts.”
This February, Irby was one of 35 walk-on players attempting to make the team. It was a three-part tryout throughout the spring semester. It included conditioning, mat drills, and spring practice.
“Raider Coaches (Larry) Olson and (Chad) Lashley had fast paced practices and that helped me in college,” said Irby. “We received very few breaks. If you rest you will get passed up by another teammate. At the end of spring practice my position coach, Coach Harmon, informed me that I had made it through all of the cuts.”
Irby was the only walk-on candidate to make the roster.
“I believe I made the team because of my determination,” he said. “I did not want to give up my love for the game. I knew this would be my last chance to play college football. Also, I have a good combination of size, strength and hands that they seemed to like that a lot. The first part of tryouts was a week of conditioning in the rain at a temperature of 20 degrees.”
The 6-foot, 3-inch Irby was a wide receiver in high school. He also played basketball for the Raiders. Irby will finish his Division I career as a tight end for the Panthers.
Irby is currently spending his summer in the weight room. He also has been taking part in 7-on-7 drills. The Panther training camp starts in August.
Irby said it was not an easy decision to chase his dream.
“I would not have transferred without the support of my family and girlfriend Cayla,” he said. “I know the Navarre community supported me with their prayers. I never thought my athletic career was really over. At first I was worried about where I needed to transfer and choosing Georgia State was a great decision on my part and I strongly believe it is where God wants me.”
Irby had advice for anyone even thinking about trying to walk-on at a college.
“If you want it bad enough you can do it,” he said. “It’s all about hard work and loving the game. You have to have heart.”
Ricki Alex, a 2011-graduate of Navarre High School’s Lady Raider basketball team, has a walk-on success story of her own. She enrolled at Pensacola State College for the fall semester and decided to attempt to walk-on their basketball team.
For more on this story, see the July 14 issue of the Navarre Press or subscribe online.