For the second time in club history, the Denver Broncos have the honor of owning the last selection in the NFL Draft. Having traded that pick to Tennessee in 2016, perhaps 2017 will be the first year the Broncos actually make the selection dubiously dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Although Denver has not yet made that final pick in the draft (and there’s a good chance that with 10 total draft picks in 2017 this year’s final pick could be traded away again now that compensatory picks can be traded), the State of Colorado has more than a couple of ties to Mr. Irrelevant.
The title of “Mr. Irrelevant” was coined in 1976, even though the draft had been held for 40 years prior, when former Southern California and NFL receiver turned business man Paul Salata (pick No. 118 in 1951, himself) founded “Irrelevant Week” to honor the final selection of the draft. The tradition continues to this day, with the recipient honored each summer with a golf tournament, a regatta, a roast giving advice to the new draftee, and a ceremony awarding him the Lowsman Trophy, all simultaneously celebrating and lampooning the achievement. In year number two of the award, the recipient hailed from none other than the University of Colorado.
Jim Kelleher played tailback for the Buffaloes, compiling a total of 1,255 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns over three seasons in Boulder. His accomplishments, which included helping the Buffs to a No. 16 AP ranking following a loss to the Buckeyes of Ohio State in the 1977 Orange Bowl, caught the eye of the Minnesota Vikings who selected him with the 355th and final pick of the ’77 draft. Kelleher was cut before the end of his first training camp and failed to make the Philadelphia Eagles roster as a camp invitee the following year before hanging up his cleats for good.
Colorado’s next two links to Mr. Irrelevant come by way of arguably the state’s greatest sporting rival, the Oakland Raiders.
In October 1984, Al Davis and the Raiders selected another Buffalo, quarterback Randy Essington, with pick No. 336. The Buffs won only six games in Essington’s three years in Boulder, just a shade less than the total touchdowns he threw over that time (10). Still, Oakland took a flyer on the QB who amassed just 2,773 passing yards and -327 yards rushing in his college career. Like Kelleher, he was cut during training camp.
Oakland went after another Colorado product two decades later, this time opting for a player from Fort Collins. Andre Sommersell, a defensive end for the Rams from 2000 to ’03, was the lone Mr. Irrelevant with Colorado ties to actually catch on with an NFL team, although it wasn’t the one that drafted him. After the Raiders cut him, Sommersell eventually landed on the Colts’ practice squad before being shipped to NFL Europe. He later spent a year in the CFL before heading back to Europe to where he would eventually become a player-coach in Italy and Germany. Born in Guyana, Sommersell’s international reach took him all the way to Dubai where he was a player-coach as well.
A pair of Mr. Irrelevants found their way to Denver in 2012, although neither ever made the main roster. Ramzee Robinson and Tim Toone, both selected by the Detroit Lions, spent time on the Broncos’ practice squad that season. Robinson, a cornerback drafted in 2007, made 29 career tackles for the Lions, Eagles and Browns. In March 2012, Robinson signed with the Broncos after spending 2010 and 2011 out of football. He was one of the final cuts in the fall of 2012. Toone, a wide receiver selected last in 2010, made the Falcons’ active roster in 2012 but never saw the field. In January 2012, the Denver Broncos signed Toone during their playoff run. Toone was waived on April 30, 2012.
Will this year’s Mr. Irrelevant have as many twists and turns to his professional career as Sommersell? Will a Colorado university add another page to the story of the inglorious selection? And will the Broncos actually make that notable pick No. 253 of 2017? (They also own pick No. 252.) Tune in April 29 to find out.