Was a “Mr. Irrelevant” So Irrelevant That His Team Misspelled His Name When He Became Their Starting Quarterback?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: One of the most prominent “Mr. Irrelevant”s was still irrelevant enough that his team misspelled his name on his jersey when he became their starting quarterback!

When the NFL Draft takes place next week, we’ll see the continuation of one of the oddest traditions in the NFL, but also one of the coolest. I’m talking, of course, about “Mr. Irrelevant.”

Started by former NFL player Paul Salata (seen here in 2005)…

it is a ceremony “celebrating” the player chosen last in the NFL Draft.

The first Mr. Irrelevant was Kelvin Kirk, picked number 487 of the 1976 draft.

Mr. Irrelevant and his family is invited to Newport Beach for a weekend in the summer after the draft devoted to celebrating him, all for charity, with a golf tournament, a regatta, a roast where people give the player advice and, of course, the awarding of the Lowsman Trophy (a parody of the Heisman Trophy, with the trophy fumbling the ball)…

A “problem” with the ceremony as the years have gone by is that the NFL has greatly reduced the number of rounds in the draft. So while, sure, being the last person drafted today is still a spot where you’re not assured a future in the league, being the 255th player in the draft is a lot better than the 487th player!

So in recent years, Mr. Irrelevants have become more and more commonly parts of teams, including 2009’s Mr. Irrelevant, Placekicker Ryan Succop, who has been a starting kicker ever since he entered the league.

The reigning Mr. Irrelevant is Texans safety, Lonnie Ballentine (who missed his first season due to injury):

But even in the old days, when the odds of a Mr. Irrelevant becoming a major part of a team were slim, there were exceptions.

The most notable exception was 1978’s Mr. Irrelevant, Bill Kenney (technically, Kenney was chosen SECOND-to-last, but the player chosen last suffered a career-ending injury before training camp began, so Kenney became Mr. Irrelevant). His career took an interesting turn a few years into his tenure in the pros.

Kenney was drafted 333rd overall by the Miami Dolphins. He was cut at the end of training camp, but managed to make the Kansas City Chiefs in 1980 as the backup to starter Steve Fuller.

When Fuller went down to an injury late in the season, Kenney was pressed into service – and in a moment fit for a man who was deemed “Mr. Irrelevant,” the Chiefs actually spelled his name wrong on his jersey the day he became the starter!! His name was spelled as Kenny, not Kenney.

Surprisingly, though, Kenney played well enough to be named the starter going into the 1981 season and even though the Chiefs kept planning to replace him, he kept playing so well that they couldn’t. This included him actually making the Pro Bowl in 1983!!! He remains the only Mr. Irrelevant to ever make the Pro Bowl (maybe Succop will make a Pro Bowl someday).

His career with the Chiefs finally came to a close in 1988, and his career was completely finished a year later.

Still, he remains the most successful Mr. Irrelevant ever!! So he’s got that going for him!

After his playing career ended, he went on to become a successful politician in Missouri.

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is [email protected]

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