Dreams hang in the balance. Players wait to hear their name announced on national television and for a shot to play in the big league. Hundreds of prospects will go undrafted, but only one can barely miss those ranks and be crowned Mr. Irrelevant.
The title of Mr. Irrelevant is given each year to the last player drafted into the NFL, a tradition that began in 1976.
The “winner” and his family are invited to spend a week in Newport Beach, Calif., where they can enjoy a golf tournament and a special ceremony dedicated to the afterthought of almost every NFL team.
The ceremony consists of a roast, where the player receives the Lowsman Trophy (a blatant rip off of the equally coveted Heisman Trophy) and ceremony goers give the player advice.
Unfortunately, for most of the Irrelevants, the fun ends there.
The typical Mr. Irrelevant usually spends his short-lived NFL career bouncing around from team to team, playing on practice squads and falling off the depth chart before being cut and becoming even more irrelevant than before. Some don’t even make it that far.
Surprisingly, the seemingly household names of Tevita Ofahengaue and Ramzee Robinson are lost on the average person who doesn’t know every draft pick ever.
Two of the past 10 last round picks are still active on NFL rosters, and only 2009’s Ryan Succop, kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, is starting. Sept. 4, the Detroit Lions released Mr. Irrelevant 2010 edition, Tim Toone, only to add him back onto their practice squad the next day.
Ryan Hoag proved irrelevant not only to the Oakland Raiders, but again in the fourth season of The Bachelorette when DeAnna Pappas denied him a rose in the second episode.
Despite the long list of last picks in the NFL draft, the honor was first bestowed on Kelvin Kirk in 1976, when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him with the 487th pick.
The lack of statistics available online suggests he took his namesake to heart.
Not all players selected with the last pick have proved to be irrelevant.
In 1978, quarterback Bill Kenney was drafted second to last by the Miami Dolphins.
However, he was sworn into irrelevancy when Lee Washburn, the actual last pick, suffered from back problems and never reported to training camp.
After the Dolphins cut him from their training camp in 1982, the Kansas City Chiefs signed Kenney as a back-up quarterback. In 1983, Kenney rewrote the Chiefs’ record books with 4,348 passing yards and 346 completions. He capped off the season with a Mr. Irrelevant first: a Pro Bowl selection.
Jim Finn is the only member of the Irrelevant club to possess a Super Bowl ring, after his New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in 2008.
Irrelevance is in the eye of the beholder. Some players provide their teams with a much needed roster fill or practice squad member.
Some last picks might even see some playing time and a starting job. Some players are as relevant as this column five months before the NFL draft or LeBron James’ public relations manager.
For the player’s sake, hopefully it’s not the latter of the two.