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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) celebrates after the NFC Championship game Jan. 28, 2024, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) celebrates after the NFC Championship game Jan. 28, 2024, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Sports reporter Adam Grosbard in Torrance on Monday, Sep. 23, 2019. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)
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Every year at the Lowsman Banquet, the capstone event of Irrelevant Week in Newport Beach, the first fans of the NFL draft’s final pick make bold predictions for his future. Endorsement deals, Pro Bowl selections, Super Bowl appearances and MVPs.

Most of the time, these predictions for “Mr. Irrelevant” go unfulfilled. But when on Sunday in Las Vegas by starting quarterback Brock Purdy, the last selection of the 2022 draft, a half-century-old mission statement will be fulfilled.

“This is like our dream,” said Melanie Fitch, the CEO of Irrelevant Week. “We’ve been waiting 48 years for Santa Claus to come down the chimney and all of a sudden there’s presents there. So we’re excited. He’s there and he has a chance to win the Super Bowl.”

Irrelevant Week CEO Melanie Fitch announces Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy being picked by the San Francisco 49ers with the 262nd and final pick of the NFL draft April 30, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Doug Benc)
Irrelevant Week CEO Melanie Fitch announces Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy being picked by the San Francisco 49ers with the 262nd and final pick of the NFL draft April 30, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Doug Benc)

Irrelevant Week was the brainchild of Fitch’s father, Paul Salata, a 10th-round pick by the 49ers in 1951.

Salata was not the final pick in his draft, but he frequently attended the event following his playing days. He saw what a big deal was made for the No. 1 pick, but how little excitement was reserved for the end of the draft.

“My dad always thought that if you make a team, you should be treated as special as anyone else on the team,” Fitch said. “By the time they got to the last-round guys, nobody cared and nobody’s awake and nobody’s anything.”

Salata wanted to honor the last player like the first. He approached then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle with the idea of bringing the last pick out to Newport Beach and showing him a good time. Rozelle agreed enthusiastically and the tradition began in 1976 with receiver Kelvin Kirk, the first “Mr. Irrelevant”.

“Dad wasn’t really a marketing guy, and he said, ‘It’s irrelevant that he’s picked last, so this is Mr. Irrelevant.’ He really should have said, ‘It’s Mr. Relevant,’” Fitch said. “We’ve had to climb that ladder with explaining that since 1976.”

The process begins the moment the player is selected, with his new team explaining who Fitch is before putting her on the phone so she can invite him to Orange County for a summer vacation. She also recruits former Mr. Irrelevants to call the new guy and ensure them the invitation is an attempt to honor them, not some kind of joke.

The players are put up in a hotel, go to baseball games and amusement parks, see their names on marquees around town and receive the Lowsman Trophy, a spoof on the Heisman with a receiver reaching for a pass down by his ankles.

Purdy was more than just relevant at Iowa State. The four-year starter set 32 school records and led the Cyclones to four consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1927.

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy celebrates on the field after the Cyclones defeated Oklahoma State 24-21 on Oct. 23, 2021, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy celebrates on the field after the Cyclones defeated Oklahoma State 24-21 on Oct. 23, 2021, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

When his turn to be “irrelevant” came in 2022, Purdy embraced it. He threw a football-shaped calzone at a pizza parlor, pretending he was receiving the snap from a center before going into a three-step drop. He brought his parents out with him, his mother Carrie being an El Toro High alumnus. Usually, Mr. Irrelevant goes to Disneyland like a Super Bowl MVP, but Purdy went to Knott’s Berry Farm because of the thematic connection to the 49ers.

At his Lowsman Banquet, Purdy was told he’d be doing commercials in no time. He was asked to read his first endorsement, only to find it was a commercial for a hemorrhoid cream.

“He starts laughing and everyone’s having a good time. He just thought it was fun,” Fitch said. “He knew that we were giving him accolades that we respected him.”

Fitch wants to be Mr. Irrelevant’s first fan, and it’s not just lip service. She can recite the stats and biography of Purdy and other Mr. Irrelevants. She stays in contact with former Mr. Irrelevants, who have developed a brotherhood of sorts, returning to Irrelevant Week for anniversary years.

That fraternity has been texting Fitch throughout the playoffs as they’ve watched Purdy carry the 49ers to two come-from-behind victories. He with 1:07 to play against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round before coming back from a 17-point halftime deficit to and punch their Super Bowl ticket.

“They’ll say, ‘How crazy is that, he’s in the Super Bowl?’” Fitch said. “I’ve heard from several of them, actually, like, ‘It’s great that Brock’s making it because he’s showing that Mr. Irrelevant isn’t irrelevant.’”

Salata is not here to see this crowing moment for his vision. He , but Fitch is confident in how he would feel seeing a Mr. Irrelevant lead his former team to the sport’s biggest stage.

“Wherever he is in heaven, he’s ecstatic,” Fitch said. “He always felt a camaraderie to the Niners, so that Brock is a 49er and is in the Super Bowl, he’d probably run on the field or something. He just wouldn’t be able to form words.”

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