On April 30th, 22-year-old Kalan Reed, was obsessively watching the 2016 NFL Draft. It had been broadcasting for three straight days and the recently graduated University of Southern Mississippi cornerback had yet to hear his name.
Reed and about 20 family members were crowded in his grandparents' Atlanta, Georgia living room when a woman named Melanie Fitch appeared on stage to reveal this year's last pick. That's when Reed finally heard his name, followed by loud cheers from excited family members. He had just been officially drafted by the Tennessee Titans—and with it, an all-expenses-paid, weeklong, party-full trip to Newport Beach, because he was now officially Mr. Irrelevant.
This year is the 41st anniversary of the title, given every year to the last pick of the NFL draft and started by Paul Salata "to do something nice for someone for no reason." Reed admits he initially had no clue what it really meant, and his mother, Kayaschei Reed, says she was "a little offended" when she first heard the title. "But once we learned the history of it and it's about how . . . it's not whether you were first or last, it's irrelevant where you were picked, we're kind of proud."
"When I got drafted I was just as happy as anyone who got drafted," Kalan added. "When you're there I mean it just doesn't matter, you just play."
Reed landed in Orange County on June 2 and met with Mr. Irrelevant Week CEO Melanie Fitch and her team of volunteers to go over what to expect over the next four days. The next day started at 6 a.m. with a spin class, followed up with a visit to NFL Network. "They treated him like he was the first guy picked," Fitch says. "They did a live in-studio with him and interviewed him."
That was just the start. Next was a sold-out Friday night charity banquet held at Newport Beach Marriott attended by over 200 people, with proceeds going to nonprofits Serving People in Need (SPIN) and the Orange County Youth Sports Foundation. Legendary Olympic diver (and Greg Louganis' former coach) Sammy Lee sat at a table with Salata while Fitch, ESPN announcer John Ireland, sports agent Leigh Steinberg and former NFL player and actor Matt Willic roasted and toasted Reed on stage, but also gave him advice for his NFL future.
Along with the encouragement, Reed was given the key to the city of Newport Beach, a personalized surfboard, a book autographed by Steinberg, a commemorative watch so "never be late to practice" and the Lowsman Trophy, the Irrelevant Week statue that depicts a football player fumbling a football. Track and field coach Bill Sumner was the first to win the Salata Award, honoring someone who has contributed to society "beyond the hashmarks," per the banquet program.
Throughout the evening, Ireland and Fitch kept the guests laughing with jokes, showed slideshows of Reed playing in college and clips of his family when his name was announced. They encouraged guests to further donate to the Orange County charities of the year and gave thanks to families and people that made Irrelevant Week possible.
Some of the advice was short and right to the point. "Get in there and learn it and play your butt off," said former Rams linebacker Brett Faryniarz. "Mr. Irrelevant is most unique. Therefore in our world, you're the first pick in the draft," Steinberg said. "Remember to be a role model and have a long illustrious career."
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Reed was the final speaker. "I want to say thank you to Paul and Mel and thank you to everyone who gave me advice," he said. "The jokes were funny too."
Saturday was a mix of athletics—Reed ran the Newport Beach 5K, rode a four-person pedal bike, got a professional surf lesson with his college pal, Kevin Williams—and charity work, as Reed met local families who are receiving assistance from SPIN. And, of course, Mr. Irrelevant and his family learned how to pub crawl on the Peninsula. Mutt Lynch's provided free drinks and appetizers for everyone in his entourage, and the patrons roared with cheers when the owner announced Reed was there. The pattern repeated at Sharkeez and and the Blue Beet, where five women came on stage and were each asked a different question. Based on their answers, Reed chose Jocelyn Daniel of Newport Beach as Mrs. Irrelevant; she received a crown and a check for $253, representing his draft pick number.
On the final day of festivities, Reed rode in a Mini Cooper with Paul Salata down Main Street in the Balboa Island Parade. People cheered and screamed his name while he tossed mini Mr. Irrelevant footballs to the crowd. When he reached the end, Reed had to take off quickly; Titans, wanted him back the following day for practice.
Reed says he'll carry his memories of Orange County—not to mention his brief reign as Mr. Irrelevant—for the rest of his life. "I was surprised," he says. "I didn't know any of that was gonna happen. I was just overwhelmed, just thankful."