Irrelevant Week schedule pared


Irrelevant Week might want to change its name to “A Couple of Irrelevant Days” in Newport Beach.

The event that celebrates the last player selected in the NFL Draft seems to get shorter every year. Don’t blame the organizers, Paul Salata and his daughter, Melanie Salata-Fitch.

If it were up to the Salatas, this year’s Mr. Irrelevant, Justice Cunningham, would crash at the family beach house in Newport Beach all summer. Someone has to take care of Salata, right? At 86, Salata-Fitch said her dad just got a new hip a couple of weeks ago.


Keep in mind, Cunningham is trying to make it in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, not be a nurse for the man who founded Irrelevant Week in 1976.

For Cunningham, it is better that his days are cut short during Irrelevant Week than his playing days with the Colts.

He’s in mini-camp with the Colts, hoping to make the team as a tight end. As if quarterback Andrew Luck doesn’t have enough tight ends to throw to already.

Well, to Cunningham’s benefit, the 6-foot-3, 258-pounder is more of a blocking tight end.

Cunningham won’t have to worry about blocking when he arrives in Newport Beach on Wednesday. Salata-Fitch said a police escort and limo will take Cunningham, his mother Marvella Saint Julien and sister Niella to where they’re staying, the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, until Saturday.

Salata-Fitch planned a crowd to greet Cunningham at John Wayne Airport. Since the Rams and Raiders fled in the mid-1990s, it seems like the NFL only returns to Southern California in the form of Mr. Irrelevant.

In Southern California, it’s hard for fans to root for anyone that finishes dead last. Cunningham is different, though. Yes, he went dead last as the 254th pick in April’s draft, but you can get behind Cunningham.

He’s the underdog, what Irrelevant Week epitomizes, and the event will raise money for Special Olympics Southern California.

Mr. Irrelevant isn’t supposed to play in the NFL, but Mr. Irrelevant has. Cunningham will be the seventh Mr. Irrelevant I’ve covered. The most successful one so far has been a kicker, Ryan Succop, Mr. Irrelevant in 2009.

Just like Succop, Cunningham played at the University of South Carolina for Coach Steve Spurrier. Cunningham and Succop missed being college teammates, Cunningham arrived at South Carolina in 2009, a year after Succop left.

The two former Gamecocks can meet on the field in Week 16, when Succop’s Chiefs play host to the Colts on Dec. 22. If Cunningham can stick around with the Colts that long, he will have a Merry Christmas.

The presents will come much earlier than that for Cunningham. During Irrelevant Week, fans will shower him with gifts.

Unlike in the past, Salata-Fitch said there isn’t an arrival party, the place where Mr. Irrelevant received the bulk of his gifts. The first gift Cunningham will get is the Lowsman Trophy, which is the opposite of the coveted Heisman Trophy. Picture a player fumbling the ball, instead of the Heisman securely carrying the ball while throwing a stiff-arm.

Irrelevant Week will kick off Thursday with the All-Star Lowsman Banquet at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa at 6 p.m. The banquet is where former NFL players and coaches, as well as former Mr. Irrelevant picks roast Cunningham.

If you want to make fun of Cunningham and support him, tickets are available for the banquet by calling (949) 263-0727. Before Cunningham puts on a suit and tie, he will go to Disneyland in the morning.

Friday will be a busy day for Cunningham. He plans to visit the NFL Network studios in Culver City, where he will do an interview. Then at night, Cunningham will attend a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game, where he will drag the infield with the grounds crew.

Salata-Fitch said the Major League Baseball game would be Cunningham’s first.

The trip to Southern California will also be Cunningham’s first. He will end it on Saturday, with surfing lessons at 30th Street from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., then a welcome to Newport Beach party at the Newport Beach Civic Center from noon to 2 p.m. Salata-Fitch said both events are free to the public.

Cunningham’s day ends with a red-eye flight out of Los Angeles International Airport. His next stop will be the NFL Rookie Symposium in Aurora, Ohio. There are planned visits to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in nearby Canton.

One bust Cunningham won’t see inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame is of a Mr. Irrelevant.