Becoming Relevant

With the Lions already beginning the “Draft” by signing Matt Stafford to a ridiculous amount of money, the real mystery begins as we prepare for the most anticipated selection of the NFL Draft — the last one!

Okay, maybe it is only the most anticipated selection on Day Two, but the last pick in the NFL Draft has become tradition unto itself.  “Mr. Irrelevant,” a distinction coined by Paul Salata, is perhaps the most well-known selection outside of the Number One pick…although you probably could not name more than one Mr. Irrelevant.

Started in 1976, “Mr. Irrelevant” receives an actual trophy, known as the Lowsman Trophy (as opposed to the Heisman…get it?).  He is also invited to spend a week in Newport Beach, CA as they celebrate being the last selection of the NFL Draft (they are laughing with him; not at him).  As the website for Irrelevant Week states, it “Is a week-long celebration of the Underdog.”

So, I’ve decided to celebrate by highlighting the top five Mr. Irrelevants since 1994.

Mr. Irrelevant is not always “irrelevant.” Two recipients of the Lowsman Trophy actually led their team to a Super Bowl victory!  Okay, maybe the notion of the players “leading” their team is a stretch as one was on injured reserve while the other played a minor role on special teams.

But, that stated, I never saw Ki-Jana Carter playing in Super Bowl (or the playoffs, for that matter).

So why the time frame from 1994 until 2008? Well, first off it is a nice number—the last fifteen years.  But more importantly, I chose 1994 as the starting point because that was when the NFL went to the current format of seven rounds (the NFL scaled down the Draft from twelve rounds to eight in 1993, then to seven rounds in 1994).

Because of this, there are a few Mr. Irrelevants prior to the time frame that are worth noting. Former Missouri State Senator Bill Kenney (Mr. Irrelevant 1978), drafted by the Dolphins, threw for over 17000 yards and 105 TDs during his tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs (1980-88).  In 1983, he threw for over 4300 yards with 24 touchdowns, good enough to land him in the Pro Bowl.

While not a Mr. Irrelevant, Jimmy Walker was the last selection taken in the 1967 Draft. As an ex post facto Mr. Irrelevant, he was also a number one pick—in the NBA draft!

A three-time All-American at Providence, Walker had a productive NBA career, averaging 16.7 points over a span of nine seasons. He was also named to two NBA All-Star games.  Ironically, he was drafted into the NFL despite never playing football.

And then there is John Tuggle, 1983’s Mr. Irrelevant. Coming out of Cal, he was the first Mr. Irrelevant to make an NFL team.

Unfortunately, his potential was never realized as a battle with cancer cut short his NFL career and ultimately his life.

Mr. Irrelevant can be (somewhat) successful. Maybe the odds of a Mr. Irrelevant making a team is not the same odds that a No. 1 pick will flop. But, it is closer than one might think (Alex Smith? Tim Couch?).

So, without further adieu, here are the top five most “successful” Mr. Irrelevants over the last fifteen years!

Andre Sommersell

Andre Sommersell

#5. Andre Sommersell (2004); selected by the Oakland Raiders

Andre Sommersell was 2004’s Mr. Irrelevant. And he never played a down in the NFL.

However, he does share something in common with 2004’s number one pick Eli Manning—both won a Super Bowl. Granted, Sommersell’s victory came in the Italian Super Bowl, but he is a champion nonetheless.

As a linebacker/coach, he helped guide the Bergamo Lions of the Italian Football League to the 2008 Italian Super Bowl victory over the Bolzano Giants. Sommersell also helped the Lions in the European Football League, a “champions league” of European football (not soccer) teams.

I had initially put him first on the list that I made for Bleacher Report.  I did this because while the others have better NFL numbers (Green) or have “real” Super Bowl rings, keep in mind that none of those players really contributed a great deal to their team’s Super Bowl titles.  He was a valuable part of the Lions defense [the Lions are also essentially the Packers of the IFL, having won the most Italian titles and three EuroBowls].  However, I moved him back to fifth, since he did not do anything in the NFL.

In terms of football in North America, the former Colorado State Ram was cut by the Raiders, as well as the Colts. Sommersell played one season (2006) with the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos, where he recorded nine tackles with one sack and one forced fumble.

He is currently the defensive coordinator for the Nurnberg Rams in a lower-tier German league.

David Vobora

David Vobora

#4. David Vobora (2008); selected by the St. Louis Rams

David Vobora gets the nod over Detroit Lions defensive back Ramzee Robinson (2007 Mr. Irrelevant) for one reason. While both have contributed to their team, Vobora has actually started a game.

Once called a sleeper pick by Todd McShay (seriously), Vobora, who was shuffled between the active roster and the practice squad, stuck with the Rams for the final few weeks of the 2008 regular season.

The linebacker from the University of Idaho started in Week 13 versus the Miami Dolphins, recording five total tackles. Vobora finished the season with 15 tackles.

Sure, that meant he finished 21st in tackles for the team, but that’s pretty good for pick 252.

CAREER NFL STATS:

  • One season (still active)
  • Eight games played, one as a starter
  • 5 tackles, 10 solo.

Marty Moore

Marty Moore

#3. Marty Moore (1994), selected by the New England Patriots

Marty Moore’s overall NFL career was uneventful, at least statistically. The former Kentucky linebacker played eight seasons (1994-2001), mostly with the Patriots (one season [2000] was with Cleveland).

But it is not Moore’s stats that allow him to be placed among Mr. Irrelevant greats. No, he is forever the answer to the trivia question: Who was the first Mr. Irrelevant to play in a Super Bowl?

As part of the 1997 New England Patriots, Moore was a part of the special teams unit that helped Desmond Howard win the Super Bowl MVP—oops! In fact, I think he was the one who missed the tackle on Howard’s kick-off return for a TD.

Moore would later win a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots in 2001. However, he was on the injured reserve and did not participate in the game itself.

CAREER NFL STATS:

  • eight seasons
  • 112 games played, 20 starts
  • 110 tackles, 74 solo
  • one sack
  • three interceptions
  • two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery

Mike Green

Mike Green

#2. Mike Green (2000), selected by the Chicago Bears

In terms of actual playing time, Mike Green has been one of the most successful Mr. Irrelevents since Kenney.

With the Chicago Bears, he played in 81 games between 2000 and 2005, starting in more than half (45) of those games. In both the 2002 and the 2004 season, he was the starting strong safety for the entire season. Also in 2004, he led the league in fumble recoveries (four).

After the 2005 season, Green was signed by the Seattle Seahawks, where he played one season (he was placed on the IR in 2006 and missed the entire season). Last season he played for the Washington Redskins.

Green is currently a free agent.

CAREER NFL STATS:

  • nine seasons (still active)
  • 104 games, 48 starts
  • 340 tackles, 260 solo
  • six sacks
  • four interceptions
  • eight fumble recoveries

Jim Finn (blocking for Barber)

Jim Finn (blocking for Barber)

#1. Jim Finn (1999), selected by the Chicago Bears

Much like Marty Moore, Jim Finn’s numbers are not going to blow you away. But there is a reason for that–he was a fullback.  And while I nearly put Green here at #1, I decided to give credit to a position that is often overlooked (or seen as “irrelevant”).

In 1999, he was part of the Bears practice squad, but in 2000 Finn was signed by the Indianapolis Colts. He played three seasons for the Colts before signing with the New York Giants. It was here that Finn had his most success.

Finn started in 42 of the 63 games he played for the Giants. As typical with fullbacks, his rushing yards were meager. However, Tiki Barber’s rushing numbers were superb!

In 2005, Finn was the primary lead blocker for Barber when the Giants halfback ran for a franchise best 1860 yards, second most in the NFL that season. Barber also had productive years in 2004 and 2006 with Finn leading the way.

2007 was unfortunate for the Ivy Leaguer as Finn missed the entire season due to injury. However, he still “won” a Super Bowl ring after the Giants upset the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

CAREER NFL STATS:

  • eight seasons
  • 106 games, 45 starts
  • 11 rushing attempts for 30 yards
  • 60 receptions for 423 yards, one touchdown
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