Irabor relishes responsibility of Tillman jersey

To wear the camouflage No. 42 Pat Tillman jersey during practice is something that is not taken lightly by any player who plays for Arizona State. It's arguably the highest honor one can receive from the coaching staff and only several players have had it bestowed on them, including just two this fall.
Senior cornerback Osahon Irabor joined senior safety Alden Darby in the elite fraternity this week.
"(Secondary) Coach (Chris) Ball had a talk with me," Irabor said. "He said that the difference between the good players and the great players is that the great players bring it every day. He sees me as a great player, has challenged me to bring it every day and I'm taking great pride in that this year."
The phrase "bringing it every day" can be a little deceiving as it involves a lot more than just playing well every day. It involves not only consistently getting better every day, but also making those playing around you better every day.
If given the opportunity to put all of what it takes into one word, the only word Irabor said he would consider using is "leader."
"It means every set and every rep," Irabor said. "That means everyone on the team is looking at you and looking at what you're doing every play. You're setting the example, so you don't get to take a play off. Being a leader means you have to have courage and you have to work the hardest."
Coaches have noticed Irabor's actions on the field. In Camp Tontozona earlier this month, Graham entailed who he thought were potentially deserving of the honor.
Irabor was quickly mentioned along with Darby as an obvious leader in the secondary and he relishes the key role he fulfills.
"You know, I've played the boundary corner for the past two years," Irabor said. "That means guarding the other team's No. 1 (receiver). The boundary is where the most action happens. It's man on man. Being able to shut down that side of the field is something I take a lot of pride in. If there isn't a lot of balls coming my way that means I had a great practice or game, and that's my goal."
Throughout camp, Irabor has been matched up with big-bodied and talented 6-foot-4 newcomer Jaelen Strong. He made each rep that Strong took as difficult for him as possible, in effort to improve both men.
One particular play at Tontozona, Irabor was pressed up against Strong on the 7 yard line in a designated third and seven situation.
On a slant route to the inside, Strong used his size and quickness to get clean separation from Irabor. As the play developed, it seemed that within a second or two, Strong would walk into the end zone untouched.
Irabor wasn't about to let him off that easily.
On a perfectly thrown ball by quarterback Taylor Kelly, Strong seemed to slow down just a little bit as the ball was arriving, probably thinking that he was in the clear. Irabor recovered quickly and eventually ended up jarring the ball away from Strong.
Turning around immediately, Irabor put up his index finger and shook it at Strong as if to remind him that anything less than 100 percent effort to a play's completion won't be enough.
That never-give-up attitude is something Irabor said is a huge factor in what makes a leader, especially on a football field.
Cornerbacks coach Joe Lorig said he has noticed a clear improvement in Irabor's overall game.
"Last year he had a good attitude and a good effort," Lorig said. "This year, I'm seeing a spectacular attitude and a spectacular effort, which is our standard. It's very hard to get that thing (Tillman jersey), but it's even harder to keep which he's done this week; so he's going to need to maintain that level of intensity every practice."
The best emblem of Irabor's leadership may be his response to a question about goals he's set for the season. Many cornerbacks would talk about interceptions and pass deflections, or just say they don't want to see the ball even thrown their way.
But Irabor has taken an all-encompassing approach he says will allow him to be more flexible in the ways that he helps his team, which he's made clear is his one and only goal.
"I don't have anything tangible," Irabor said. "We feel like we don't need to throw numbers out there to have it be a goal. Coach and I talked, and I just want to be more impactful and leave my imprint on each and every single game through any way I can."