Mr. Irrelevant is a title that gets discussed every April around the time of the annual NFL Draft because it is the dubious title given to the last player chosen in the draft. The title Mr. Irrelevant is given in a half joking manner because of the lack of faith that exists regarding the final player selected ever being worth mentioning again because his odds of succeeding in the NFL are seemingly so small.
For several years now the NFL Draft has had seven rounds with 32 teams. Although seven rounds with 32 teams comes out to a total of 224 picks the actual number of total picks is typically around 255. The reason that there are additional picks beyond the allotted one per round per team for seven rounds is because of something called “compensatory picks.” While a complete explanation of compensatory picks is beyond the scope of this article the gist is that there are additional picks designated for teams that lost more players to free agency than they gained. Thus compensatory picks help allow teams that are light on players to stock up a more full roster. It is not unusual for Mr. Irrelevant to be selected with the 255th overall pick at the very end of a drafting process that literally lasts days.
Although the NFL Draft began in 1936 it was not until forty years later in 1976 that the endearing phrase Mr. Irrelevant was popularized. The concept was actually the brainchild of a former NFL wide receiver and standout player for the University of Southern California named Paul Salata. At the age of 49, long after his playing days were behind him, Salata founded what was to be known as Irrelevant Week near his home in Newport Beach, California.
Mr. Irrelevant Week is held in Orange County, California during the summer and among other events includes a parade, golf tournament, and roast for the player lucky enough to be selected with the final pick in the NFL Draft held during the previous spring. The week long extravaganza concludes with the awarding of the Lowsman Trophy. The Lowsman Trophy mimics the Heisman Trophy (the most coveted individual award in college football) but instead of depicting a player striking a stiff arm pose a football player fumbling the ball adorns this piece of hardware.
Although it can be argued that the first Mr. Irrelevant was Phil Flanagan because he was taken with the last pick in the first NFL Draft in 1936 Kelvin Kirk is more widely recognized as the official first Mr. Irrelevant. Kirk was selected with the 487th and final pick in the 1976 NFL Draft and therefore landed an invitation for himself and his family to partake in the Newport Beach festivities that summer.
One of the more interesting career paths by a man selected with the last overall pick in the NFL Draft is probably Jimmy Walker who was chosen by the New Orleans Saints with the final pick of the 17th round (445 overall) in the 1967 draft. That same year Walker was taken with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. Walker would go onto play nine years in NBA and make a couple of all-star teams before eventually fathering a son named Jalen Rose. Rose would go onto play in the NBA and famously with the Michigan Fab squad in 1992 and 1993. Sadly, an estranged relationship resulted in Walker and Rose never meeting in person before Walker passed away in 2007.
On a lighter note casual sports fans may find it interesting that numerous players that have been named Mr. Irrelevant played for top tier college football programs like the University of Nebraska, LSU, Ohio State, and the University of Texas just to name a few.