History Class: Mr. Irrelevant

By George Somerville

George continues his journey into the history of the NFL Draft with a look at how the final pick in each annual selection meeting became fondly knows as ‘Mr. Irrelevant’.

Quick NFL trivia questions for y’all. What do Kelvin Kirk and Tae Crowder have in common?

The answer to that is both have the honour of holding the title of Mr Irrelevant at the start of their NFL careers.

But what and who is Mr Irrelevant? Well, we all know that Mr Irrelevant is the player who is drafted last in the NFL Draft. But how did this odd celebration come about?

The announcement of player picks in later rounds of the draft are a hoot and far less serious than the first couple of rounds when the world’s media scrutinise every pick. In the latter rounds, fans, children even animals get involved with picks. But that’s another story for another time.

The Birth Of Mr. Irrelevant

Mr Irrelevant
Credit: Associated Press

So where did the phrase come from? Well, back in 1976 former NFL receiver Paul Salata announced the final pick in the draft – Kelvin Kirk drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. After that pick, Salata decided it would be a great ide to celebrate the final pick not just on the day, but also over the course of the week. So ‘Mr Irrelevant Week’ was born in Newport Beach, California. 

Following each draft every “winner” is invited to Newport Beach for the week, where a number of festivities are planned including a regatta, golf tournament and a trip to Disneyland for Mr Irrelevant and his family. In addition, the recipient receives a “Lowsman” trophy which mimics the Heisman trophy and shows a football player fumbling the football.

Up until 2013 Paul Salata continued to announce the final pick of the draft until his daughter took over in 2014 – and still does to this day.

Breaking The Curse

Mr Irrelevant
Credit: OC Weekly

So not withstanding the fact that being drafted is a feat in itself, is the Mr Irrelevant monicker a kiss of death to an NFL career?

Well, it is true like many low round draft picks that a high percentage of players don’t make a career beyond training camp or their first NFL contract. And Mr Irrelevant is no different. But it isnt necessarily the case that there haven’t been some exceptions to the rule.

Without doubt the most successful Mr Irrelevant came in 2009, when kicker Ryan Succop was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. Succop started well in Kansas, eventually becoming the Chiefs’ all time leader kicking field goals. Succop was waived by the Chiefs in 2014 and subsequently picked up by the Tennessee Titans where he would play in Nashville for six seasons. After suffering a knee injury in 2019 Succop was released by the Titans to then be signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020. In Super Bowl LV, Ryan Succop kicked for 4-4 on extra points and 1-1 on field goals in the win over the Kansas City Chiefs. This means that Succop became the first Mr Irrelevant to play in and to win a Super Bowl.

Succop is quoted as saying:

“I didn’t choose to be Mr Irrelevant. It just worked that way. I’m just trying not to get caught up in it and focus more on the task at hand, which is trying to come in here and help the team. It’s not one of those things that I really think about too much, to be honest”.

And focus is what Ryan Succop did.

Embracing The Moniker

Mr Irrelevant
Credit: Robert Deutsch (USA Today Sports)

But back to the very start of this article and the connection between Kelvin Kirk and Tae Crowder. So, if Kelvin Kirk was the first Mr Irrelevant, you don’t need a rocket scientist to work out that Tae Crowder is the most recent holder of the trophy, having been drafted with the final pick in 2020.

Unlike some, Crowder chose to embrace his draft position after being selected by the New York Giants. Speaking to ESPN, Crowder said:

“It was really funny because Mr Irrelevant was really a thing. And this is how my whole process has been – just being an underdog and all that and having to overcome a lot of obstacles and get where I wanted to be”.

So Crowder used his pick as motivation to build himself a NFL career. He spoke to my colleague Oliver Hodgkinson prior to the draft about the uphill task ahead, which you can read here. But that’s not to say he hasn’t had some fun along the way. Crowder also said,

“But it was great to get in that lane and embraced it. I loved it. I still do love it. It’s my title now”

So much so that Tae Crowder has his own range of Mr Irrelevant merchandise, which at least for the rest of this week is still available.

Maybe, this weekend when we are all focused on the first pick of the draft, give some thought to the fun end of the selection meeting and the trip to Disneyland. And the merchandise opportunities. But, much like Tae Crowder, who played in over a third of the Giants’ defensive snaps last season, had 57 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery AND a touchdown, don’t forget that it’s not where they get selected that determines how far a prospect’s career can go.

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george somerville

College football writer