With the Miami Dolphins prepared to take Michigan's Jake Long with the No. 1 pick in this weekend's NFL draft—the team has already signed the offensive tackle to a five-year, $30 million deal—speculation has turned to who St. Louis will select with the second pick. But the more intriguing question might be who the Rams will take with the last pick of this year's draft, the player who since 1976 has been referred to as Mr. Irrelevant.
Paul Salata, a businessman, philanthropist, and former football player at USC, will announce the final selection Sunday in New York City. While many others embody the underdog spirit, few celebrate it quite like Salata, the second of seven sons of Yugoslavian immigrants. In 1976, he founded Irrelevant Week, a celebration in Newport Beach, Calif., of the final player picked in the NFL draft.
While the draft has fewer rounds today—and the final player picked is no longer as likely to be the first player cut in training camp—the tradition continues. Events throughout Irrelevant Week include a regatta and sports banquet, where sports celebrities and past honorees roast and offer advice to the latest member of the dubious club.
1. THE INAUGURAL MEMBER
Fittingly, University of Dayton wingback Kelvin Kirk missed his flight to California for the first Irrelevant Week, forcing a stand-in to participate in the welcoming ceremonies and motorcade. Given how irrelevant the 487th pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers was, it's unlikely that anyone noticed. Kirk was cut by the Steelers in training camp, but played seven years in the CFL.
2. THAT'S LOW
The Lowsman Trophy—a brilliant parody of the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded each year to college football's most outstanding player—is presented to Mr. Irrelevant each year. The trophy, pictured above, artfully depicts a player who is either fumbling the ball or, in the case of the four quarterbacks who have been the last pick in the draft since 1976, on the receiving end of a woefully off-target pass.
3. MR. SENATOR
One of those quarterbacks was Bill Kenney, the 333rd and final overall pick of the 1978 draft out of Northern Colorado. Kenney made the Pro Bowl after leading the NFL in completions and attempts in 1983 with the Kansas City Chiefs and ended his career as a backup with the Washington Redskins in 1989. Kenney went into politics and was elected to the Missouri State Senate five years later. Among the bills he sponsored was one that created "God Bless America" and "Pet Friendly" license plates.
4. EXTRA IRRELEVANT
Akron's Daron Alcorn became the first kicker taken with the final pick of the draft when Tampa Bay made him the 224th selection in 1993. Alcorn never caught on in the NFL, but he was a member of the Frankfurt Galaxy when they won the irrelevant World Football League championship in 1995 and later became a fixture in the Arena Football League. Football fans are still waiting with bated breath for the first punter to join the club.
5. THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST
Former University of Alabama cornerback Ramzee Robinson, who had seven tackles in six games for the Detroit Lions last season, is the reigning Mr. Irrelevant. Naturally, Robinson wore No. 1 with the Crimson Tide before being selected with the 255th overall pick. Based on the photo evidence above, he seemed to relish his newfound fame.
6. THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST
In 1967, before the Mr. Irrelevant label was adopted, the late Jimmy Walker was the last pick in the NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints despite having never played college football at Providence. Walker, a basketball star for the Friars, was the No. 1 pick in that year's NBA draft. He went on to play nine years in the NBA, appearing in two All-Star games, and was the father of retired NBA shooting guard Jalen Rose.
7. THE GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS COLLEGE
Several Mr. Irrelevants were drafted out of major college programs, including Matt Elliott (Michigan), Everett Ross (Ohio State) and Norman Jefferson (LSU). And then there's Ryan Hoag, Mr. Irrelevant 2003, who caught 144 passes at tiny Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Among the more relevant graduates of the liberal arts school of less than 3,000 are Patsy O'Sherman, co-inventor of 3M Scotchgard, and Annie Martell, the first wife of singer John Denver.
8. THAT'S SUPER
New England Patriots linebacker Marty Moore, the 222nd pick in the 1994 draft out of Kentucky, became the first Mr. Irrelevant to play in a Super Bowl when he appeared in the Patriots' 35-21 loss to Green Bay in 1997.