On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS May 19, 2014 #489 Up next…”Mr. Irrelevant”
After further review…With the NHL and NBA seasons drawing to a close (whew!) the NFL has leaped back onto the media stage with its annual player draft. The final player selected – this year it was #256 – is apply named “Mr. Irrelevant”. I mean, what could be more irrelevant than a player chosen last? The regular-season NFL player roster numbers 53 players. Most NFL teams invite more than one hundred players to training camp, including all those already on the roster. It is estimated that fewer than 100 newly drafted players will remain on the 32 T*E*A*Ms. Then, too, the average tenure of an NFL player is three and one-half years. What chance does #256 have?
But I get ahead of myself. In 1975 Paul Salata, living in Newport Beach, California, approached me and said, “I want to do something for someone for no good reason.” “Sounds like a good idea,” I responded. “What’s your plan?”
“Well, Salata continued, I want to honor the last NFL draft choice each year and call him ‘Mr. Irrelevant’”.
Salata, called “Slats” by his friends, had played in the NFL as a receiver for the Baltimore Colts and the San Francisco 49ers, following a stellar career at the University of Southern California that included two Rose Bowl games. Tapping his own financial resources to fund this project, he created the event that is much the same today as it was in 1975. Each year, Mr. Irrelevant is flown to Newport Beach and honored with a week of celebrations.
When Mr. Irrelevant arrives in Newport Beach he is paraded by land and sea, stays at a luxurious hotel, then treated to a day in his honor at Disneyland, a golf tournament, and a featured horse race named “Mr. Irrelevant”. The ‘Irrelevant’ festivities conclude with a gala banquet, where he is presented with the “Lowsman” trophy! I’ve been a speaker on the dais at that event, which is always full of current and former NFL players and coaches, many of whom are hall of famers as well as a contingent of local celebrities. Only “Slats” could pull this off!
This year’s Mr. Irrelevant is Lonnie Ballentine, a 6’3” 220-lb. safety from the University of Memphis. He was drafted #256 by the Houston Texans and will be honored on July 10. It may well be the highlight (or lowlight) of his career.
Will you think of something you can do for someone “for no good reason”?
Jim’s new book “101 Best of Tunney Side or Sports” is available here.