“With the 255 pick (last pick) in the NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select…Tim Toone out of Weber State.”
You might be asking yourself who Tim Toone is (I’m sure Lions fans did), but when Roger Goodell said these words, he bestowed the title of “Mr. Irrelevant” onto young Tim. There are perhaps better nicknames out there: “The Chosen One” (Lebron James), “The Golden Boy” (Oscar de la Hoya for you boxing fans), “The Toe” (Lou Groza) or even “Tractor” (if Cavs fans remember Robert Traylor). The difference is that these other nicknames were earned based on player’s attributes or skills. Toone was simply given the nickname because of the unlikelihood that he will make the Lions roster. He was a good player at Weber State, but only time will tell if he will be able to make the final cut. The nickname isn’t even original — he shares it with every other player that has been drafted last in the NFL — which in his case is 74 other people. Think of being bestowed with a good nickname but then finding out that there are already 74 people that already have that nickname. It has to be a bit of a let down.
While the title of Mr. Irrelevant might not open too many doors, it does have at least one perk. Former NFL receiver Paul Salata started “Irrelevant Week” in 1976 and it is still run by his daughter, Melanie Salata-Fitch. During this week, the last player picked in the draft is invited to Newport Beach, Calif. for a golf tournament and other fun activities that NFL players do (Disneyland, arts and crafts, etc). The player is also awarded the Lowsman Trophy, which is similar to the Heisman trophy but shows a player fumbling a football. The other perk that the pick entails is quite obvious: the chance to make an NFL team. For football players of all ages this is a lifelong dream.
The presentation of an award to the last place finisher is a tradition in sports. In British sports, there is a tradition of the last place team getting the wooden spoon. I’m not quite sure of the origin of the wooden spoon, but if the Brits came up with it you can be sure there’s a good reason behind it. The last place finisher in the Iditarod dog sled race is awarded the Red Lantern and the last rider in the Tour de France gets the same award (although the French call it the “Lanterne Rouge,” naturally), which is reminiscent of the red lantern used on the caboose of trains. The point of the last place finisher or last draft pick is not to mock the person, though. Instead, it is to acknowledge the accomplishment the person has achieved. Although Ricky Bobby would disagree and say “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” sometimes just making the journey and finishing is enough.