Bessie Lee, mother of Bruce Irvin, sits with her husband...

Bessie Lee, mother of Bruce Irvin, sits with her husband Rufus Lee. Credit: Newsday / Barbara Barker

Bessie Lee settled into her seat at Super Bowl XLVIII a good four hours before kickoff so she could soak up every moment of her son's big day.

Lee is the mother of Seahawks outside linebacker Bruce Irvin. Seven years ago, she couldn't be sure her son would be alive today, let alone playing football on the world's biggest stage.

"This right here is bigger than big," Lee said Sunday. "It's a wonderful feeling. I never gave up on my son, but I would have never dreamed that we would be here today with the struggle he went through."

Irvin dropped out of his suburban Atlanta high school after his junior year, and in May 2007 -- at age 19 -- he was arrested on suspicion of burglary and for carrying a concealed weapon. Irvin has told ESPN that he sold drugs, and things got so bad that Lee had to ask him to leave her house.

After the charges were dropped, Irvin decided to earn his GED. He reconnected with his mother and attended junior colleges in Kansas and California before landing at West Virginia.

When Seattle chose the 6-3, 248-pound pass rusher with the 15th overall pick, everyone was shocked, including Irvin, who was not even watching the NFL draft show when he was selected because he expected to go in a later round.

As a starting defensive end, he led all NFL rookies with eight sacks last season, but he was suspended for the first four games of this season for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. When he returned, the team had him playing at outside linebacker. During the regular season, he had two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception.

On Super Bowl media day last week, Irvin, 26, couldn't help but marvel about his path to the big game.

"It's crazy. That's all I can say: It's crazy," he said. "From the situation I was in seven years ago when I started this, I never thought I'd be playing in the Super Bowl."

Lee said she hopes her son's story can inspire others going through hard times.

Said Lee: "To get here after the struggles he's gone through, I think it says something. It just says never give up. To me, no matter what happens today, he's already a winner. I'm just so proud."