Ex-Steelers Draft Pick & Creator of ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ Dies at 94

Paul Salata and Leigh Steinberg

Maury Phillips/Getty Images for Leigh Steinberg Paul Salata (L) and host Leigh Steinberg at the 28th Annual Leigh Steinberg Super Bowl Party at Arizona Science Center on January 31, 2015.

Paul Salata, the former pro football player who created the award that honors the last player selected in each NFL draft, died Saturday at the age of 94.

According to The Associated Press, Salata died of natural causes at his home in Newport Beach, California.

Salata is survived by his second wife, Carolyn, son Bradley, daughter Melanie Fitch, two granddaughters and a brother, George. He was preceded in death by his first wife Beverly in 2003, per The Associated Press.

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The Steelers Drafted the First Mr. Irrelevant

The Mr. Irrelevant Award dates back to early 1976, when Salata came up with the idea of offering the last player drafted a free trip to southern California.

Then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle sanctioned the idea, and after the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kelvin Kirk at the end of the 17th round (No. 487 overall), Kirk agreed to spend a week in Newport Beach, marking the birth of Irrelevant Week.

Each Irrelevant Week features a series of events in which the last player drafted is celebrated; it typically features a banquet in which he receives the Lowsman Trophy—a trophy not unlike the Heisman, except it depicts a player fumbling a football.

For many years, Salata journeyed to New York to announce the last pick in each NFL draft in person. But in recent years, his daughter Melanie Fitch has taken over for her father, who himself was selected by the Steelers in the tenth round of the 1951 NFL Draft, this according to Pro Football Reference.

Oddly, Salata—who played his college football at USC—had already been in the NFL for two seasons when he was drafted, spending time with both the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts. But when the Colts franchise was disbanded after the 1950 season, Salata was declared draft-eligible, giving the Steelers the opportunity to select him No. 118 overall.

All told, the former end/wide receiver played in 23 NFL games and had 74 receptions for 907 yards and eight touchdown catches.

The Steelers Have Selected Mr. Irrelevant 3 Times

To date, there have been 46 men who can call themselves Mr. Irrelevant. The Steelers have been responsible for drafting Mr. Irrelevant three times, but not since 1979 and 1980 when Pittsburgh took wide receiver Mike Almond (Northwestern State) and offensive guard Tyrone McGriff (Florida A&M).

McGriff went on to have a modestly successful NFL career. Per Pro Football Reference, he appeared in 16 games and made 10 starts as a rookie right guard. All told, he played in 36 games for the Steelers between 1980-82.

Meanwhile, placekicker Ryan Succop (2009) remains one of the most accomplished players to have been selected last in the draft, as his career has spanned 13 seasons and counting. More notably, he’s the first Mr. Irrelevant to both play in and win a Super Bowl, as he was a member of the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

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