The glitz and glamour put on by the NFL last week in Nashville went a long way toward proving the theory that there is absolutely nothing irrelevant about the NFL draft. Well, nothing that is except for the actual Mr. Irrelevant.
First a little house cleaning. The first ever draft was held in Philadelphia in 1936. It was nine(9) rounds long, eighty-one(81) picks. The very first draft pick ever selected was Jay Berwanger, a star halfback for the Chicago Maroons of the University of Chicago. Berwanger was drafted by Philadelphia and was no doubt immediately booed.
The draft peaked at thirty(30) rounds in 1950 but today is a much more manageable seven(7). The draft used to be a weekend only event, taking place on Saturday and Sunday. It would change into the four(4) day extravaganza it is now in 2010 when the two extra days were added to maximize television coverage.
The first ever Mr. Irrelevant, the honor bestowed upon the very last pick of the draft each year was Kelvin Kirk WR out of University of Dayton. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kirk with the last pick of the 1976 draft. Mr. Irrelevant week started that year when former NFL wide receiver Paula Salata founded the event in New Port Beach, California. During the summer after the draft, Mr. Irrelevant and his family are invited to spend a week in New Port Beach where they enjoy a trip to Disneyland, a golf tournament, a regatta, a roast, and they receive the Lowsman Trophy. The trophy mimics the Heisman Trophy but features a player fumbling a football.
As football fans, you know that there undrafted free agents who not only make an NFL squad, but have lengthy careers in some cases. That said, there have even been players who have found success coming from the Mr. Irrelevant designation. The most notable being 2009’s Mr. Irrelevant, Ryan Succop. Selected with the last draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs, Succop would go on to tie the NFL record for rookie field goal percentage in a season at 86.2%.
Other notable mentions would be Marty Moore, Mr. Irrelevant 1994. Moore played linebacker for eight(8) seasons with the New England Patriots, and Cleveland Browns, playing on the Patriots team that won a championship in 2001. Another Mr. Irrelevant that made a career at the NFL level was Tim Finn, Mr. Irrelevant 1999. Spending parts of eight(8) seasons with the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, and New York Giants, this bruising fullback would be leading the way for Tiki Barber when in 2005, Barber amassed a franchise record 1,860 yards from scrimmage.
The Buccaneers own Mr. Irrelevant, Akron placekicker Darin Alcorn was selected by the Buccaneers with the last pick of the 1993 draft but would not make the team out of camp. Who knows what could have been if not for the kicking competition that year with undrafted free agent, Michael Husted, who also joined the team that year. Alcorn would go on to kick for eight(8) seasons in the Arena Football League.
This years Mr. Irrelevant was UCLA Bruins tight end Caleb Wilson. selected as the very last pick by the Arizona Cardinals. Someday Wilson might be bragging to his family how he caught passes in camp from #1 overall pick, Kyler Murray. Maybe Caleb, and Kyler can put their Heisman, and Lowsman trophies up in the team facility for display. Maybe Caleb makes the team and these two play together for years to come.
As for the incoming crop of young players who will now spend the next three(3) months engrossed in learning the extensive playbooks they will be receiving. The only thing that seems irrelevant at this point is making plans to do anything but learn the system, get practice reps, and continue to get better everyday. They might have the rest of their lives to be irrelevant when it comes to playing football, but today they are anything but.