Paul Salata was a wide receiver at the University of Southern California in 1944, 1946 and 1947. He caught a touchdown at the 1945 Rose Bowl before joining the Army Air Corps during World War II. He was also an infielder on the USC team that won the College World Series in 1948, and played one season in the minor leagues in 1950.
Like Mr. Irrelevant People, Mr. Salata’s career was largely unremarkable. He played 23 games for two years in Canada alongside the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers in the early 1950s before leaving the sport in 1953.
He also spent some time in Hollywood, having small roles in films such as “Stalag 17” and “Angels in the Outfield”. In “The Ten Commandments”, he fought and was defeated by Charlton Heston, who often joked that he was so old that he was beaten by Moses.
As his dreams of stardom faded, Mr. Salata moved on to his father’s work, sewer construction; helped start the Orange County Youth Sports Foundation; And focused on turning the irrelevant week into a different ritual.
“My mantra has been to make the ‘F’ fun in the NFL,” said Rich Eisen, a longtime host on NFL Network who frequently interviewed Salata during the draft. “He was perfect in our studio because he created such a quirky tradition.”
NFL teams soon learned that drafting Mr. Irrelevant was free publicity. In 1979, the Los Angeles Rams deliberately passed the next-to-last pick, to force the Steelers, who had the last pick, to pick first. Mr Rozelle had to intervene and let the Steelers choose one last time. Thus the “Salata Rule”, which prevented teams from fishing to make the final selection, was born.
One year, Ms Fitch said, when the Raiders had the last pick, Jerry Davis, brother of team owner Al Davis, joked to Mr Salata that the Raiders were going to pick the player whose last name was the most complicated. So Mr. Salata will have trouble pronouncing it.