FRISCO, Texas – David Irving remembers his arrival in Texas right down to the day – and why on Earth wouldn't he?
In the days leading up to Sunday's game against Kansas City, much has been made of the Cowboys' decision to sign Irving off the Chiefs' practice squad back in 2015. It's a fun little anecdote and a fitting story that the Cowboys poached one of their best defensive playmakers away from their neighbors to the north.
But for Irving, it's not so much an interesting tidbit as a life-altering event, and one he remembers well.
"I think it was a Tuesday," he said. "I went into the meetings not really knowing anybody, not knowing what they expect out of me. The next day we had full pads."
Irving's memory checks out. The Cowboys officially signed him on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, just two days after a 39-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. They had injuries on their defensive front and had liked what they'd seen from Irving's preseason tape.
For his part, Irving was just beginning to feel comfortable in Kansas City. As a practice squad player, he stayed home while the Chiefs left town on a road trip.
Then, he got an important phone call.
"They played Green Bay away, at Green Bay," he said. "I literally just saved up enough money to get the furniture moved in my apartment. That next day I had to leave. I left the lease, broke the lease, left the furniture – I just had to go. It was a crazy experience."
As an exclusive rights free agent, Irving is currently playing on a base salary of about $470,000. With five sacks in three games, he's also on pace to earn himself a solid pay day in 2018. Furniture isn't likely high on the list of his concerns right now.
But thinking back to Irving's journey to the NFL, it's hard to fathom how that must have felt. Irving came out of San Jacinto, Calif., with very little fanfare, and he went to similarly unheralded Iowa State – a school he was eventually kicked out of for disciplinary reasons.
It's hard to imagine right now, days after he sacked Kirk Cousins twice in a 33-19 win against Washington, but it's understandable that Irving thought he'd never make it this far.
"The Chiefs were the only team who even called me after the draft, so I figured that was my only shot," he said. "Once I didn't make their team, I figured 'Well, that was my only shot and now it's gone.'"
Obviously, that wasn't the case. But it's been an arduous process to get to this point. Even after signing with the Cowboys, Irving wasn't guaranteed of anything. NFL teams that sign players off of opposing practice squads are required to keep them on the roster for three weeks – but nothing beyond that.
With the Cowboys' roster in flux during that 2015 season, Irving said it took him until 2016 to truly feel comfortable with his role on the Dallas defense.
"The first year, I still didn't know what was going to happen," he said. "Greg Hardy came back, and I didn't know what was going to happen or where I was going to be."
At this point it's hard to imagine being anywhere but Dallas. But, he sounded like a wise veteran when he offered up the one variable that guarantees stability – production.
"I know that the better I play, the more secure I'll feel," he said. "So I've got to step that up a little bit. But I feel at home."
Sunday should feel like quite the homecoming, in that case. This game against the Chiefs will feature the two NFL cities Irving has called home and the only two clubs to give him an opportunity.
Whatever happens going forward, it's something Irving can always look back on.
"It's been crazy, man. It's changed my life," he said. "And again, if the Chiefs hadn't called me, I wouldn't even be here right now – I don't know where I'd be. It changed my life. I'm grateful for that. Now I'm here, and I'm grateful for this opportunity."