Merriam-Webster defines irrelevant as “having no importance or relation to what is being considered.”
The San Francisco 49ers selected University of Southern California wide receiver Paul Salata with the 118th pick in the 1951 NFL Draft. Salata played two seasons in San Francisco as a 49er and one for the Baltimore Colts. The native Californian experienced minimal success in the AFL and NFL and he eventually traveled north of the border to compete for the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders in 1952 and Ottawa Rough Riders in 1953. Nearly a quarter of a century later in 1976, Salata conceived the Mr. Irrelevant Award. The original Mr. Irrelevant, a title presented annually to the last player chosen in the NFL Draft, was a wide receiver out of Dayton named Kelvin Kirk. The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Kirk with the 487th choice in 1976. Salata crowned, and partook in all of the summertime festivities in Newport Beach for, every Mr. Irrelevant until his daughter assumed the role in 2014.
“Everyone who is drafted works hard, and some of them don’t get any recognition,” Salata, 90, told the New York Times. “They do their work and should be noticed.”
Mr. Irrelevant has attracted a large following because many onlookers enjoy supporting an underdog. Plus, thanks to expanded rosters and practice squads, Mr. Irrelevant has a legitimate chance to make some kind of impact on the gridiron. Moreover, considering the achievements of undrafted Pro Bowlers like Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, Wes Welker and James Harrison, it’d be absurd to overlook an underestimated talent. With that noted, let’s review the last 15 Mr. Irrelevants and see where they are today.
15 RYAN HOAG - 2003
The Oakland Raiders took wide receiver Ryan Hoag out of St. Peter, Minnesota-based Gustavus Adolphus College with the final pick in April 2003. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Hoag, a two-time first-team All-MIAC selection, was cut by the Raiders a few months later in July of that year. Despite never performing in a regular season contest, Hoag earned NFL paychecks with the Raiders, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and Jacksonville Jaguars. The native Minnesotan also played for the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe, the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos and the New York Sentinels and Omaha Nighthawks of the now-defunct United Football League. Hoag, who was a reality-show contestant on “The Bachelorette” in 2008 and “The Bachelor Pad” in 2012, now coaches the Minneapolis Washburn boys’ tennis program.
“With everything I’ve done, the NFL and all that, this is what makes me the most proud,” Hoag, 37, said of teaching tennis.
14 ANDRE SOMMERSELL - 2004
The Oakland Raiders selected linebacker Andre Sommersell out of Colorado State with the 255th choice in 2004. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Sommersell never played in The Town for the Silver and Black. However, the powerful Ram did appear on the gridiron for the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos and NFL Europe’s Berlin Thunder. Sommersell currently serves as the head coach of the Dubai Stallions of the Emirates American Football League.
"Never would I have ever thought I would be living here, ever," said Andre Sommersell, 36.
Sommersell says that one of the many differences between the NFL and EAFL is the number of smokers on his squad.
"I mean, for example, there are a lot of smokers on my team," said Sommersell.
"When I got drafted to the Raiders, they showed us an old film where all of the players would be smoking on the sideline, before practice and all of that. So with my team, we have guys that smoke, so before the game, at halftime, you know, they're smoking cigarettes, and you're like, 'Guys, it's halftime, what are you doing?'”
13 ANDY STOKES - 2005
The New England Patriots drafted William Penn University tight end Andy Stokes with the 255th pick in 2005. The 6-foot-4, 257-pound Stokes was ecstatic to become a Patriot as Mr. Irrelevant.
"I'm excited for this," Stokes said. "I think I have to come in there as if I was a free agent, and I have to really impress them."
Bill Belichick praised Stokes for his grittiness, diligence and intellect.
"(He's) kind of the all-time, small-school pick that I think we've had," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "He's an athletic guy, a guy that we see a lot of upside potential with. He's a smart, hard-working kid.”
The 36-year-old Stokes, who played with the Patriots, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks’ practice squads, now serves as the head coach of Dixie High School’s football program in St. George, Utah.
12 KEVIN MCMAHAN - 2006
The Oakland Raiders and Mr. Irrelevant were seemingly affiliated for much of the 2000s. The Raiders selected wide receiver Kevin McMahan out of the University of Maine with the final choice in 2006.
“I was at school when I found out,” said McMahan, 34.
“I had a bunch of friends over with two TV's cued up, one with the draft on and one with video games on. When we heard the bell for each pick, we would look up at the screen. It was just madness when they called my name. Everyone jumped on me.”
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound McMahan was a practice squad member for the Raiders, Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers before calling it quits in 2008. The erstwhile Black Bear is now an accountant for a prominent financial firm in Charlotte.
11 RAMZEE ROBINSON - 2007
This Mr. Irrelevant had a somewhat relevant NFL career. The Detroit Lions chose University of Alabama cornerback Ramzee Robinson with the 255th selection in 2007.
"I was told before the draft that I'd go somewhere between the second round and fourth at the latest," Ramzee, 33, said.
"It turned out that I'd have to wait much longer to hear my name to be called. I stopped watching after the fourth round. But one person never stopped watching – my mother."
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Robinson performed in Motown for two seasons before competing as an Eagle and Brown during the 2009 campaign. Robinson collected paydays with the Redskins, Browns and Broncos’ practice squads prior to concluding his career as a Saskatchewan Roughrider in June 2013. He's now a Player Engagement Coordinator for the NFL.
10 DAVID VOBORA - 2008
University of Idaho linebacker David Vobora had a decent NFL career. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Vobora, a two-time first-team All-WAC selection and 2007 honorable mention All-American, was taken by the St. Louis Rams with the last pick in 2008. Vobora to be proved a worthy defender in the Show Me State and he was named the Rams’ starter for the 2009 season. Unfortunately for all parties involved, the gutsy underdog was WRONGLY suspended for four games for using performance-enhancing drugs in September 2009. Vobora was briefly a Seattle Seahawk before he retired in 2012. Vobora presently operates a training facility for elite athletes and members of U.S. Special Forces.
“[I] started meeting these adaptive athletes and realizing that I could offer them a level of optimization that they hadn’t had in a long time,” Vobora, 31, said.
“They see themselves as broken, and what we’re trying to show them, that what is once broken can be revived with a new purpose.”
9 RYAN SUCCOP - 2009
Place-kicker Ryan Succop is in the midst of a productive NFL existence. The Kansas City Chiefs took the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Succop out of the University of South Carolina with the 256th pick in 2009. Succop, a two-time second-team All-SEC choice, was a Chief for five seasons.
“There were times where I was discouraged and I felt like, why is this happening to me? But if you work hard," said Succop, 30, "just let the chips fall where they may.”
The Tennessee Titans signed Succop in September 2014 one day after he was waived by the Chiefs as a salary cap casualty. The former Gamecock has been a very reliable and efficient kicker for the Titans over the last three seasons in Tennessee.
8 TIM TOONE - 2010
Weber State University wide receiver Tim Toone was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the final pick in 2010.
“I was super excited and relieved,” said Toone, 32.
“I feel honored to be Mr. Irrelevant, but also just to get drafted. I’m going to make my mark. I’m going to work hard and prove myself and show everybody that I’m a great player and I’m going to be a benefit to the Detroit Lions.”
Regrettably for the 2009 FCS first-team All-American, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Toone was never promoted from the Lions’ practice squad. After suffering the same fate as a Buffalo Bill in 2011 and Denver Bronco in 2012, Toone secured a place on the Atlanta Falcons’ 53-man roster in July 2012. Toone was cut by the Falcons in July 2013 and he was then released a year later as a New Orleans Saint. Toone is a free agent still seeking another chance in the league.
7 CHETA OZOUGWU - 2011
The Houston Texans selected Rice University outside linebacker Cheta Ozougwu with the 254th pick in 2011.
"It's a big relief," Ozougwu, 29, said. "I'm blessed to have this opportunity. No matter what was going to be the outcome, whether it's free agency or being the last pick or being a fifth-round pick, I just wanted the opportunity to play the game."
The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Ozougwu didn’t launch in Space City and he played sparingly as a Texan. The 2010 and 2011 first-team All-C USA selection subsequently inked deals with the Chicago Bears in April 2012 and then the New Orleans Saints in May 2014.
Alas, Ozougw failed a physical with the Saints in March 2015 and the organization released the badass Owl shortly thereafter. Ozougwu is training and contemplating one final comeback in the league. He got married in the spring of 2016 to Stephanie Ibekwe and the couple even has their own website to highlight their wedding.
6 CHANDLER HARNISH - 2012
Northern Illinois University quarterback Chandler Harnish was taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the final pick in 2012. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Harnish, a 2010 first-team All-MAC selection who won that year’s Vern Smith Leadership Award, spent two seasons trying to secure a place as Andrew Luck’s backup. Harnish’s efforts never paid dividends and he was cut by the Colts in August 2014. Harnish had brief stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals before shelving his cleats in September 2015.
"When I got released by Arizona (early in training camp), I started thinking to myself what the next step in my career would be," Harnish, 28, said. "Would it be football, business, do I go back to school for my MBA? It was a conflicting time."
Although “retired,” Harnish would gladly rejoin the league if another franchise extends him an offer.
“That’s not quite 100 percent,” said Harnish.” If a team were to call, like Minnesota called me last year, to be a backup right away, I would jump at that."
5 JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM - 2013
The Indianapolis Colts drafted University of South Carolina tight end Justice Cunningham with the last pick in 2013. Cunningham got antsy waiting to get selected and disliked the entire experience.
“I was pretty upset. No, I was really upset,” said Cunningham, 26.
“By the time I did get the phone call from the Colts, I was already in talks with another team about signing as a free agent. It got to the point where I wasn’t really even thinking about the draft anymore. I just wanted to get with a team and go from there.”
The 6-foot-3, 258-pound Cunningham was promoted from the Colts’ practice squad to its active roster on November 19, 2013. Sadly for the massive Gamecock, Indianapolis cut Cunningham a mere week later. Cunningham was next waived by the Rams in September 2016 and he remains a free agent.
4 LONNIE BALLENTINE - 2014
University of Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine was taken by the Houston Texans with the 256th pick in 2014. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Ballentine has impressed the Texans’ coaching staff and showed tremendous forcefulness and power in the secondary. However, Ballentine has been plagued by injuries and unable to stay on the gridiron.
"We've stuck by Lonnie," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "Lonnie has a good skillset, we think. He's a great guy. He's had some, obviously, ups and downs with injuries. More downs than ups. But when he did play, which hasn't been much, but when he did play he showed flashes of the player that we thought he could be.”
Ballentine concurred with O’Brien’s analysis and expressed his appreciation to the Texans’ organization.
" It means a lot. I really appreciate everyone upstairs for believing in me and giving me a chance,” said Ballentine, 24. He remains on the Texans roster going into training camp this year.
3 GERALD CHRISTIAN - 2015
University of Louisville tight end Gerald Christian wasn’t exactly familiar with Mr. Irrelevant. The Arizona Cardinals took the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Christian with the 265th pick in 2015.
“(After I was selected), people were calling me and telling me I was going to get a parade,” said Christian, 25. “But I just thought they were being funny. “I consider myself very relevant. At the end of the day, regardless of what the name is, I make my own destiny.”
A litany of ailments prevented Christian from shining in the Valley of the Sun and the Cardinals axed him in August 2016. Nonetheless, Christian quickly rebounded and debuted on the Buffalo Bills’ active roster in December 2016. Somewhat surprisingly, the Bills clipped Christian in March and he is a free agent seeking employment.
2 KALAN REED - 2016
University of Southern Mississippi cornerback Kalan Reed has the tools to become an extremely important Mr. Irrelevant. The 5-foot-11, 192-pound Reed was drafted by the Tennessee Titans with the 253rd choice in 2016.
“That was my team growing up, said Reed, 23. “Now, I am a Titan."
Reed, a first-team All-Conference USA selection, was promoted to the Titans’ active roster last November and he’s presently jockeying to start in the team’s secondary this autumn.
“(Reed’s) a very good movement player,” Titans General Manager Jon Robinson told the Tennessean. “Very good ball skills. Another productive player on the football.” The Titans shored up their secondary this offseason by adding Logan Ryan in free agency and drafting Adoree Jackson, so Reed's best hope will be to secure a spot on special teams.
1 CHAD KELLY - 2017
Former University of Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly is the nephew of legendary Buffalo Bills signal-caller Jim Kelly. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Kelly was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the 253rd pick on April 29.
Because the Rebel was a notorious scofflaw in Oxford, many organizations were wary of taking Kelly. However, Broncos General Manager John Elway sought Jim’s honest advice.
"I called his uncle, and he said, 'He's a good kid,'" Elway said.
"I said, 'OK, that's all I need.' I trust Jim with that. Obviously, there's been some history there, but we felt comfortable. Chad understands what he's been through and is ready to take this step and realizes the step that he's taken is different than when he was in college. We're full of confidence that Chad's going to be able to come up here and understand the situation he's in.''
Kelly is hoping to backup Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch this autumn.
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