Paul Salata, creator of the Mr. Irrelevant Award which has been given out every year since 1967, died on December 31st at the age of 94. The award is given to a player who was picked last in the NFL draft and has gone on to have a successful career.
Paul Salata, the creator of the Mr. Irrelevant Award, died at 94. The award is given to players in the NFL who are not drafted by a team.
After playing football at USC and in the NFL and the Canadian Football League, Paul Salata founded the Mr. Irrelevant Award, which celebrates the final pick in the NFL draft. He was 94 years old at the time.
He died of natural causes a day before his 95th birthday at home in Newport Beach, California, according to his nephew Nick Salata.
Despite the fact that the NFL draft began in 1936, Salata established the Mr. Irrelevant Award in 1976. The athlete and his family were asked to spend a week in Orange County participating in activities such as visiting Disneyland and competing in a golf tournament. The Lowsman Trophy, which depicts a player fumbling a football, was presented to the recipient. As the 487th selection that year, Kelvin Kirk of Dayton University was the first to get the title.
The attention created by “Irrelevant Week” was so great that in 1979, the Los Angeles Rams, who had the next-to-last choice, passed to allow the Steelers, who had the final pick, to choose first. Pittsburgh, too, wanted the attention and voted yes. The Steelers won after both teams refused to select a player until commissioner Pete Rozelle forced them to. As a result, the so-called Salata Rule was enacted, which prohibits teams from passing in order to get the final pick.
Paul Salata, right, was a wide receiver for the Trojans in 1944, 1946, and 1947, as well as an infielder for the squad that won the school’s first College World Series championship in 1948. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle
For the first time in February, a Mr. Irrelevant appeared in and won a Super Bowl. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ placekicker, Ryan Succop, began the game. He was taken with the last selection in the 2009 draft.
In 1944, 1946, and 1947, Salata played wide receiver for USC. The Trojans won their conference every year and appeared in the Rose Bowl in 1945, when Salata grabbed a touchdown in a 25-0 win against Tennessee. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps and missed the next season.
Salata was also a member of the 1948 Trojan baseball team, which earned the school’s first College World Series championship. Later in life, he was a small league baseball player.
In his NFL career, he caught 50 receptions for four touchdowns while playing for the San Francisco 49ers (1949-50), Baltimore Colts (1950), and Pittsburgh Steelers (1950-51). He also played in the CFL, earning All-Star accolades with the Calgary Stampeders in 1952 and the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1953.
Salata worked in construction after retirement, most notably as a sewage contractor.
Salata featured in 18 films, mostly in the 1950s, including Janet Leigh’s “Angels in the Outfield.” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Stalag 17,” and “The Joker Is Wild” were among his uncredited roles.
“We’d watch ‘Stalag 17’ for the 800th time every time it aired on TV,” Nick Salata said. “‘Honey, I’m going to quit football and acting and become a sewer contractor,’ I can see him telling Aunt Beverly. He was a fantastic individual.”
Salata’s second wife, Carolyn, his son Bradley, daughter Melanie Fitch, two grandchildren, and brother George survive him. He was predeceased by his first wife Beverly, who died in 2003.
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