As I’m delving deeper into the history and culture of the college football experience, as a Brit, I’m appreciating the quirks that unexpectedly pop up.
As the 255 college football players picked in the NFL Draft a few weeks ago embark on making their dreams become a reality, we naturally think of the top players, heralded by the fans as the potential saviour of a struggling franchise or the continuation of an emerging dynasty. Joe Burrow returning to his roots in the gritty Ohio landscape to revitalise the Bengals, has already been practically anointed as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback. Tua, already known by his first name, is heading to South Beach as the future of the Dolphins franchise, learning behind the veteran and always entertaining Ryan Fitzpatrick.
But what of the lower draft picks? Some face an intense few months of proving themselves all over again, some simply to get on to the practice squad. These guys are not eligible to play in games. They are the sparring partners – there to mimic the set up of the team’s opposition that week, essentially as punchbags for the starters and backup rotation to practice their tactics and run throughs.
Located at the deepest depths of the draft, lies a little pearl of tradition – “Mr. Irrelevant”.
Mr. Irrelevant is the name given to the player selected with the very last pick of the NFL Draft. Created by Paul Salata, a former NFL wide receiver, “Mr. Irrelevant” has become a celebration of the underdog, hailing the achievement of an NFL draft selection whilst also raising considerable sums of money for charity, over $1million since its inception.
Mr Irrelevant will be invited to spend a week in California’s Newport Beach. According to www.mrirrelevant.org : “Mr Irrelevant is the toast of an Arrival Party welcoming him to town, where NFL fans and the local community come out in force to cheer the player and shower him with gifts.”
They add that “this party is followed by a week of fun for Mr. Irrelevant and his guests, as they tour Disneyland, participate in media opportunities at the NFL Network in Los Angeles, visit the charity beneficiary… participate in a sailing regatta and attend a Major League Baseball game”. This week culminates in a fundraising dinner where he will be presented with the “Lowsman” trophy, a statue based on the famous Heisman trophy (presented to the best player in college football), but instead showing this player fumbling the football.
This year, Tae Crowder, a linebacker from the University of Georgia, will have the honour of becoming the 44th Mr. Irrelevant, his celebrations on hold until later in the year.
For a sport that loves the underdog, Mr. Irrelevant is a quirky and wonderful celebration, as it’s founder, Paul Salata, states, a tradition that “shares an inspirational story about a champion of perseverance – and that’s an important message for today’s society.”