Sure, David Irving chose taking a hit over, well, taking a hit.
But the former Dallas Cowboys’ rising star didn’t up and quit the NFL just for the recreational high of marijuana. His stance – surprise! – isn’t to party, but more so for prosperity.
“I know the perception people have of me is that I’m some sort of gangsta, homeless pothead,” Irving said last week via telephone. “But I gave up football for a bigger cause. I want to change the bias toward marijuana. I want to educate America that it’s not a drug, it’s medicine. The real reason I’m not in the NFL is that I’d rather be out here saving lives.”
Upon his infamous retirement from the Cowboys and the NFL last March via live Instagram video, Irving hung up his helmet, moved to San Jacinto, Calif., and began his new pot-over-pigskin life as a cannabis connoisseur. Among his many products he recently launched Cannabis Passport, the world’s first rolling paper magazine that includes 100 premium hemp and soy-printed filter tips.
“I’ve been smoking since I was in middle school. Always had a 3.0 GPA. Never had any trouble with the law. We just need to stop already with the lies and misconceptions,” Irving said. “Marijuana is easing the pain of cancer patients. It’s adding years to dogs’ lives. It could help the NFL with its CTE problem, too. The stereotypes are nonsense. It’s just like prohibition, only 100 years later.”
I called Irving expecting to get a smoke-ringed combo of Willie, Cheech and Spicoli and instead got a contact higher learning from a 6-foot-7, 300-pound freak of an athlete now unafraid to take on Snoop Dogg, Big Pharma and the NFL.
“They tried to make me an addict,” he said. “But, naw, I’m an advocate.”
Not long ago, Irving was an asset. Out of Iowa State he was initially signed by the Kansas City Chiefs and eventually landed on the Cowboys’ practice squad. He blocked a field goal in 2015 and in 2016-17 recorded 11 sacks in 10 starts as a long, lean defensive tackle. On October 16, 2016, Irving was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after helping the Cowboys beat the Packers with three forced fumbles, a sack and a deflected pass.
In just 19 snaps.
His reward was more playing time and, eventually, a one-year, $3 million contract. But then came the tests – altered and manipulated by the NFL, he claims – that led to three suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse program. Upon his indefinite suspension last March, he said the Cowboys quit on him before he quit on them.
“Coach (Jason) Garrett told me I should just stop playing and to smoke all the weed I wanted because the team didn’t need me anymore,” Irving said. “It was pretty clear they were done with me.”
With a stable Irving, the Cowboys might not have wasted a first-round draft pick on Taco Charlton.
“Obviously, David’s been dealing with some different things over the course of the last year and really was not a part of our team this past year,” Garrett said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. “He’s a free agent as we know it and will address specific issues with specific guys as we go.”
Said Irving, “I hear the scores, but I don’t watch. It’s bittersweet, ya know? I miss football, but I don’t miss the NFL because it’s all politics.”
To say Irving is skeptical of his former team and the NFL is a gross understatement.
He estimates that “85 percent” of NFL players use marijuana in the offseason or outside of the NFL’s known testing window: April 20 (yes, 4/20) to the first preseason game. But he says he was tested repeatedly because testers claimed to have found increased testosterone, often associated with the use of performance enhancing drugs.
“I had (marijuana) deliveries all set up (at Cowboys’ training camp) in California because I knew I’d pass all the tests,” Irving said. “But they found out about it and were out to get me. Made an example of me. Of course, we all know that if I played for the Jaguars it would’ve be no big deal. It’s because I played for America’s Team.”
Part of Irving’s retirement decision was based on football’s toll on his body. He estimates he suffered 25 concussions. He turned 26 in August.
“I have headaches, some PTSD and marijuana helps me,” he said. “It’s not the problem. Opioids are. But the NFL lets players shove Xanax and Ambien and Hydros down their throat like candy. America’s epidemic is opioids, not some natural plant that God gave us to help us, among other things, manage pain.”
The premise of Irving’s conspiracy theory is, of course, money.
“Marijuana can do so many good things, but the government can’t tax something you can grow in your back yard,” he said. “It would knock so many pills off the shelves if it were available everywhere. But we know the big pharmaceutical companies will never let that happen.”
Following in the footsteps of former Pro Bowl center and three-time Super Bowl champ Mark Stepnoski – who after retirement became the president of the Texas chapter of NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws) – Irving isn’t the first Cowboy to stump for hemp. Only the loudest.
He promises change. He blames league leaders and lawmakers. He even calls out the most prolific stoner of them all, Snoop.
“We’re both from Compton and we know what’s up,” Irving said. “But he came out and said I made a bad decision. Really, Snoop?! I’m calling you out. I do this for medical advocacy, and you get high just to fuck the police. It’s just not right.”
Irving seems content. (I did not ask if he was high.) He’s making speeches. He’s calling politicians. He’s selling products. He’s … braiding his daughter’s hair.
“Doing her hair is the worst part,” laughs Irving, who recently won a custody battle for his 7-year-old daughter, Zoe. “Because she has her dad’s nappy hair.”
Irving likely won’t play another down of the sport he loves. He’s too busy sacking stereotypes.
“Marijuana can help heal people,” he said. “But the NFL is big business, and they don’t want you around if you make noise. Can’t take a knee. Can’t make a stand. That’s just not a place I’m interested in being around. If people will listen to me and get to know me, they’ll realize I’m not the troubled addict I’m painted out to be.
“I’m just trying to make this world a better place. Marijuana can help me do that.”