Denver Broncos | News

Sacco Sez: The story behind "Mr. Irrelevant" and Paul Salata, its inventor

The first thing anyone reading this would ask is, "Who in the world is Paul Salata?"

He is one of the great characters in NFL history, and his time in pro football spans an era of eight decades, one way or another.

I vividly remember conversing with Denver Broncos President & CEO Joe Ellis back around 1984 or 1985, when Joe was the Marketing Director for the team.

We were lamenting the fact that at that time there did not seem to be as many characters in the game, like guys nicknamed "Bulldog" or "Slingin' Sammy" or "Johnny Blood," referring to Clyde Turner, Sammy Baugh and John McNally, respectively.

But there are still characters in the game, and one of them, who has been involved in pro football since 1949, actually crosses paths with the Broncos this year in an official capacity.

I refer to Paul Salata.

Salata was a fine receiver and became a CFL all-star with that 1952 Calgary team.

When the first iteration of the Baltimore Colts franchise folded, Salata became draft-eligible and he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers, a 10th-round draft choice in 1951.

A football fan can definitely win bar bets by asking someone to name the 49ers receiver who scored their last touchdown as members of the AAFC and their first as members of the NFL.

That would be Salata, and there is nothing "irrelevant" about that statistic.

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Incidentally, like a lot of USC athletes before him, he dabbled in the movies, as the studios were always looking for athletic guys to play such roles in films. Salata played Tony Minelli in the original "Angels in the Outfield," and when William Holden won an Academy Award for "Stalag 17," Salata played one of Holden's fellow prisoners of war.

He became a successful businessman after his playing career but always stayed close to the game, and in 1976 he created a tradition that continues today, 41 years later: "Mr. Irrelevant."

It was based on the theme that the very last selection in the NFL draft is irrelevant, which of course it is not.

Like all teams, the Broncos have had last-round choices who became very successful, including Ring of Famer Karl Mecklenburg and safety Tyrone Braxton.

And Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway is on record saying, "We cherish the bottom of the draft," adding, "We don't draft All-Pros. We develop All-Pros."

But over the last 41 years, teams and players have embraced and had a good time with Salata's Mr. Irrelevant and the accompanying "Irrelevant Week" festivities. This year the Irrelevant Week XLI activities will take place June 3-5 in the usual Newport Beach, California location.

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It is more difficult than you might think to actually have the last pick in the draft. Even if a team wins the Super Bowl, it might have traded the pick away, or supplemental picks granted by the NFL might jump past that team.

But this year the circumstances are such that the Denver Broncos are on the clock with the scheduled last pick in the draft, putting Mr. Irrelevant in orange and blue.

Salata, now 89, has had his daughter Melanie running the day-to-day activities for the last 25 years, but he is still present at all the activities. Since his first year in pro football was 1949, that might give him the longest active period of involvement current in the game.

And there is nothing irrelevant about that!

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