By Dan Albano
Servite's boisterous and comical student cheering section, The Asylum, broke from routine this week to serenade football player Julius Irvin with a chant that comforted a family more than most in the gym probably knew.
"Purple reign!" the students sang during a basketball game that Irvin attended Wednesday night, just hours after committing to the purple-loving Washington Huskies.
Irvin's father, LeRoy, wasn't at the game, but the former Rams All-Pro was overwhelmed when he learned of his son's experience.
"Makes me want to cry," he said. "It's been a hard couple of weeks for Julius but he's been doing better."
About a month after Irvin completed a first-team All-County football season for Servite, his mother, Joyce, suffered a brain aneurysm that required surgery.
Julius, a highly-recruited defensive back, was the one who found his mother lying on the floor at home unresponsive and called for emergency medical assistance, LeRoy said.
"It was a scare that first day," Julius said.
Irvin's mother is recovering in an Anaheim hospital and faces a rehabilitation process that could last up to one year, LeRoy said.
"She needs to learn how to walk again," he said of his ex-wife. "She's getting better."
Julius visits his mother in the hospital. She was with him on his official recruiting trip to Washington in September.
When it came to deciding between the Huskies and his other finalists, Alabama and USC, Julius remembered what his mother taught him about selecting a college: make the decision that is best for him.
"She raised me to not really do anything based off of anybody else and follow my heart," said Irvin, adding his father shared the same belief.
Irvin put the lessons into practice by selecting Washington. With assurances from his father, the 6-foot-2, 187-pound senior pushed aside the urge to stay close to home for his mother's sake and resisted the reigning national champion Crimson Tide, which offered him late in the process.
He picked the connection he felt with the Huskies.
Irvin bonded with Jimmy Lake, Washington's co-defensive coordinator and defensive back coach. The Huskies envision Irvin playing cornerback, LeRoy's position with the Rams, and safety is also an option.
"Even before I told him I wanted to play corner, he said he saw me as a corner," Irvin said of Lake. "That's one of the reasons I chose them."
Irvin also felt comfortable in a Washington locker room that will include former Servite teammates Keith Taylor (defensive back) and Terrell Bynum (wide receiver) and Orange Lutheran's Brandon McKinney (defensive back).
"This is a place (where) I could see myself growing into a man," Irvin said of Coach Chris Petersen's program. "It's hard passing up such prestigious universities like Notre Dame, USC and the dynasty they have at the University of Alabama.
"I felt like this was just my decision, instead of listening to the hype and all the outside noise. This was the decision that was best for me."
Irvin plans to make it official with the Huskies on National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 7. He'll certainly remember his mom's encouragement and spend time with his friends at school, the ones who cheered for him during the basketball game.
"They're real supportive," he said. "That was a really unique moment. I wasn't expecting it, so it was much appreciated."