In 1936, the first ever NFL Draft was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. The first selection in the first ever draft was Jay Berwanger, who was the first Heisman Trophy recipient in 1935. The NFL Draft has now become a very big deal, with swarms of fans arriving to a location to see who their team picks over the course of 3 days and 7 rounds. Usually, the focus is on the first overall pick and the subsequent others in the first round. But someone has to be picked last. There has to always be a final player selected in every NFL Draft. That’s who Mr. Irrelevant is.
“Mr. Irrelevant” and the subsequent “Irrelevant Week” was founded by Paul Salata in 1976. Salata played football and baseball at USC, where he was a member of the Trojans baseball team that won the 1948 College World Series. He played football professionally for the San Francisco 49ers (who were in the All American Football Conference at that time), the Baltimore Colts, and in the Canadian Football League. Salata announced the final pick in the draft until 2013, with his daughter taking over in 2014. After the draft, the player participates in “Irrelevant Week”, where the player and his family spend a week in Newport Beach, California, a trip to Disneyland, a regatta, participate in a roast, and receive the Lowsman Trophy. The Lowsman Trophy is a parody of the Heisman Trophy, where instead of giving a stiff arm, the player on the trophy is fumbling the ball. Irrelevant Week is also used as a charity event to support youth sports. Mr. Irrelevant and Irrelevant Week also led to one of the most unusual moments in NFL Draft history. In 1979, the Los Angeles Rams had the second to last pick in the draft. The Rams wanted the Mr. Irrelevant publicity, so they passed to the Pittsburgh Steelers so they (the Rams) would have the last pick. The Steelers also wanted the publicity, so they passed back to the Rams. The two franchises passed back and forth to the point where NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle had to step in and forced the teams to pick. As a result, it is now an official NFL rule that teams are prohibited from passing to get the final pick.
The first Mr. Irrelevant in 1976 was Kelvin Kirk. Kirk was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 487th pick in the 17th round of the 1976 draft. It’s amazing to think the draft used to be that long. Kirk played college football at the University of Dayton, but would never play in the NFL as he got cut by the Steelers in training camp. He went on to play 7 seasons in the Canadian Football League and would work as an artist for the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. Tyrone McGriff is one of the more successful Mr. Irrelevant selection. Picked by the Steelers in 1980, McGriff played college football at Florida A&M under head coach Rudy Hubbard and won the NCAA Division I-AA national championship in 1978. As an NFL rookie in 1980, McGriff was named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team. After three seasons with the Steelers, he went to the USFL, where he won a league championship and was a USFL All-Star. After his playing career ended, he became a high school football coach in Florida and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996. John Tuggle was the 1983 Mr. Irrelevant. He started 5 games for the New York Giants at fullback that season and was named Giants Special Teams Player of the Year. Sadly, Tuggle was diagnosed with cancer in 1984 and died of cancer in 1986 at the age of 25. The 1986 Giants honored Tuggle during their run to the Super Bowl with a patch on their jerseys of Tuggle’s jersey number 38. The ’86 giants also honored Carl “Spider” Lockhart, another former Giants player who sadly died of cancer in 1986, with a spider patch. Marty Moore became the first Mr. Irrelevant selection to play in a Super Bowl, appearing in Super Bowl XXXI. The Patriots lost to the Green Bay Packers that year. While Moore was a member of the Patriots team that won Super Bowl XXXVI, he was injured and didn’t play in the Super Bowl, making 2009 Mr. Irrelevant Ryan Succop the first Mr. Irrelevant selection to both play in and win a Super Bowl, winning Super Bowl LV with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 2000 Mr. Irrelevant selection Mike Green recorded a 100 tackle season in 2002 during his time with the Chicago Bears, and was considered an important part of their secondary during his time with the team from 2000-2005.
Mr. Irrelevant is one of my favorite NFL Draft traditions. It’s a way to highlight the players who might not receive the media attention the guys earlier in the draft may get. Plus, there’s a lot of players on day 3 of the draft who turn out to be steals. Mr. Irrelevant puts the spotlight on a pick not given the attention as 1-32, and maybe this year’s Mr. Irrelevant will surprise us and he’ll do good.