Los Angeles Times

Virgen: Mr. Irrelevant for a reason

Do you believe everything happens for a reason?

Lonnie Ballentine does. He's known as Mr. Irrelevant, but he holds his beliefs very relevant and in some cases, reverent.

He says he's a believer and knows there's a reason he was selected as the final player in the 2014 NFL Draft. There's a reason a boy who became a man in Memphis, Tenn. would end up in the Newport Beach waters on a surfboard doing his best to ride waves and show what he calls swag.

That's his confidence.

"To me it's all about swag," said Ballentine as he sat on the patio near the pool at the Island Hotel just before an Arrival Party at the Dunes. "You gotta go out there like: 'I can do this.' Saying: 'I got swag about myself and I know I can hop on that board and make something happen.'"

Ballentine used his confidence to surf Wednesday morning at 30th Street, starting a full day of fun during the 39th Irrelevant Week in Newport Beach.

Ballentine, a free safety out of Memphis selected No. 256 by the Houston Texans, stood up on his board for about two seconds, making his coach Jeff Cyr very proud.

He also made his family proud and happy, fulfillment during another gorgeous, sunny day in Newport Beach.

So what does Ballentine's wife think of her husband being the 39th Mr. Irrelevant?

"He's gonna be relevant," Brittany said. "Just wait on it."

The couple brought their two daughters, London, 4, and Laila, 2.

London hasn't been able to stop talking about Disneyland, as the girl is looking forward to Friday's big family event where Dad will be "honored" as Mr. Irrelevant.

Ballentine and his wife know Laila is also here for a reason.

The 2-year-old was born Down syndrome. This year's charity for Irrelevant Week, as part of the Foundation of the Undefeated, is Southern California Special Olympics.

The Foundation for the Undefeated champions stories of perseverance.

Ballentine and his family know about perseverance.

"We found out that she had Down syndrome a little after birth," Brittany said. "I wouldn't trade this experience for anything in the world. She's amazing. We enjoy every thing with her. She's just as normal as any other child. She opened up our eyes to a lot of things. We love her so much."

Mr. Irrelevant said his strong family circle has provided him strength to accomplish great feats in football, and to be a devoted father and husband. He said he became excited when he learned of this year's charity.

"People don't understand how much joy they can bring to you and how much joy you can bring to them," Ballentine said of those with Down syndrome. "Just being able to go out there and interact with them it's fun."

I was grateful to share stories of our girls with Ballentine, as my daughter was born Down syndrome.

Throughout the day, it was evident that Ballentine was very welcoming and compassionate.

He met many people, even random customers at Mutt Lynch's for lunch. That's where he posed for photos with Rick Rahe of Rancho Santa Margarita. Rahe's grandson Jeff Baca, who played football at Mission Viejo and UCLA, is now an offensive guard for the Minnesota Vikings.

Ballentine and his family then went sailing in Newport Harbor aboard Amante with local skipper Buddy Richley and his brother, Tim.

Grandma Gloria Marsh, Brittany's grandmother, became sick during the sailing trip. But she appeared to still enjoy the day.

Someone asked Grandma Gloria if she ever wanted to sail again and Gloria said, "Yes, I do."

"Live with a smile," Ballentine said. "My Grandma [Gloria] taught me that. Even though life gets you upset, you have to smile. I just try to be like that. Like Laila, she's happy all the time. She never has a moment when she is sad."

Ballentine and his family had plenty of reason to be happy at the Arrival Party. His family also included his mother, Sheila, his aunt Debra, Brittany's mother, Anita, and Grandma Gloria.

They all watched as Ballentine received a proclamation from Mayor Rush Hill and a boatload of gifts. Ballentine raised his eyebrows in disbelief when gifts were dropped in a rubber raft by Costa Mesa High cheerleaders.

Later, he was taught how to Texas two-step and then danced the Electric Slide.

Into the night, Ballentine visited the Wild Goose on 17th Street in Costa Mesa. He got behind the bar to mix a few drinks. But he didn't want many for him to sip.

He knew he had to go through a spin workout in the morning at GRIT Cycle in Costa Mesa. He wanted to help raise money for Southern California Special Olympics.

He wants to make sure he is here for a reason.

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