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Ryan Succop, as relevant as they come, headed into Super Bowl LV

Melanie Salata-Fitch,
Melanie Salata-Fitch, Irrelevant Week CEO, and her husband Ed pose for a portrait at the Irrelevant Week headquarters in Newport Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Mr. Irrelevant has never been more relevant.

Ryan Succop was once the last pick in the NFL Draft. The kicker was taken at spot No. 256 — dead last — by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009.

When he steps on the field Sunday in Tampa, Fla. for Super Bowl LV, Succop will be playing against the team that drafted him. He has turned in a remarkable season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-5), who will try to stop the Chiefs (16-2) from winning their second straight title. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL played a full schedule with no canceled games.

Mr. Irrelevant is celebrated in Newport Beach each summer as part of Irrelevant Week, an idea started in 1976 by former NFL player Paul Salata and carried on by his daughter, Melanie Salata-Fitch. Succop will become just the second Mr. Irrelevant to play in a Super Bowl.

Former Mr. Irrelevant and linebacker Marty Moore played for the Patriots in the 1990s, and they lost Super Bowl XXXI to the Packers. Moore later earned a championship ring with the Patriots when they beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, but he was on the injured reserve and didn’t play in the game.

Succop, a two-time NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in 2020 who set the Buccaneers’ single-season scoring record with 136 points, could thus become the first Mr. Irrelevant to play for a winning team in the Super Bowl. Just by kicking an extra point or field goal, he would become the first Mr. Irrelevant to score a point in the big game.

“How neat would that be if he won, and scored?” a giddy Salata-Fitch said. "[He’d be] breaking all kinds of irrelevant records.”

Tampa Bay kicker Ryan Succop, right, celebrates during the Buccaneers' 31-24 win over Green Bay on Jan. 24.
Tampa Bay kicker Ryan Succop, right, celebrates during the Buccaneers’ 31-24 win over Green Bay in the NFC Championship game on Jan. 24.
(Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

After an injury-plagued 2019 season with the Tennessee Titans, Succop was cut in March. But he has come back as strong as ever. Salata-Fitch plans to root on the former Mr. Irrelevant via the television, not in person.

She said she’s not going to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1979, due to the strict COVID-19 restrictions in place. She’ll be watching the game with her father Paul, who is now 94 years old.

“It’ll be just Dad and I hunkered down,” she said with a laugh. “He’ll probably sleep through a few quarters and we’ll wake him up on the touchdowns or something.”

Succop is just one local connection to Super Bowl LV. Quinton Bell, who graduated from Costa Mesa High in 2014, is a member of the Buccaneers’ practice squad. Bell plays linebacker.

Newport Beach agent Leigh Steinberg, himself a supporter of Irrelevant Week, will be going to the game as he does every year. The extravagant in-person party had to be modified, however.

Due to COVID-19, Steinberg’s 34th Super Bowl party turned virtual this year. It benefited the Make-A-Wish Foundation and is available to watch online.

“We had to be innovative in the wake of the pandemic,” Steinberg said. “All that networking gets lost this year. This is normally a place where I’d meet with owners, meet with general managers, do all of those interviews and everything else.”

Steinberg would typically leave for the Super Bowl on the Tuesday before the big game, but this year he said he doesn’t leave until Saturday. Steinberg, now 71, said he got his first COVID-19 vaccine shot this week at Soka University.

He represents one player on each team: Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, last year’s NFL and Super Bowl MVP who is going for his second straight title, and Bucs running back Ronald Jones II. And he is well aware of what could happen if they excel in the final game of the season.

“The Super Bowl is the premiere marketing event, athletically, in the country,” Steinberg said. “Players who perform dramatically in the game and interview well have the opportunity to cross over from the narrow genre of hardcore sports fans, to become household names. Patrick’s done it once, and if he does it twice, it’s sort of exponential in terms of marketing opportunities, opportunities to do good with his foundation and all the rest of it. If it happens to be Ronald, then it will raise his profile too.”

Irrelevant Week CEO Melanie Salata-Fitch, her pug Louie and husband Ed Fitch will be rooting for Ryan Succop on Sunday.
Irrelevant Week CEO Melanie Salata-Fitch, her pug Louie and husband Ed Fitch will be rooting for former Mr. Irrelevant Ryan Succop in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Mr. Irrelevant also is happy to be on the field for the Super Bowl for the first time in a 12-year kicking career. He understands the, well, relevance.

“I’m very blessed to be here, obviously,” Succop, 34, told reporters during a press conference Tuesday. “Some of the things I went through last year in Tennessee were really difficult. It was certainly some adversity. Any time you try to come back from an injury and you don’t come back the way that you want to, it can be frustrating. I think it’s been something that has helped me grow as a person.”

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