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NFL Draft – The Inspiration of Mr. Irrelevant 2022

The NFL draft is almost like a graduation ceremony for elite sport athletes. There is the actual performance in position while in college and hours upon hours of video tape to promote one’s highlights. There are a series of psychological assessments helping define one’s intellectual aptitude and emotional maturity, although I’d love to go back and see a certain former Steeler wide receiver’s results after his classic emotional meltdown. There are hours of interviews. Then there is the ‘college combine’ - a series of performance metrics in competitions like the 40 yard dash, how many bench presses can you do at a certain weight, how accurate your passes might be, or catches you can make or stop, etc. etc. Somewhere in all of that is a virtual HR Recruiter assessing an entire set of variables to offer recommendations to coaches and club owners worthy of consideration. Then you have the sports commentator; pundits like Mel Kiper. These analysts are like odds makers in horse racing. They supposedly evaluate an athlete based on their vast knowledge and years of experience observing “the ones to watch” over the past few decades.

To receive an invitation “to the dance,” you must first compete and perform fairly well at the college level. Every once in a while we’ll witness an athlete who transitions from Rugby or Australian Rules Football but 99%+ of all eventual NFL players and Canadian, USFL and European football players emerge from the United States college programs’ ranks. That said, college experience is not the case for most other sports except for basketball since professional baseball, hockey, and soccer players generally skip the auditioning stage presented through college. The greatest basketball players, likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, turned pro directly from high school, the rare exception.

Having had the responsibility to evaluate innumerable candidates for nearly as many positions over the past 40+ years, striving to narrow the pool of candidates to a select few requires an incredible amount of experience and most importantly – awareness. Me, personally, and my team have sourced, screened and recommended countless candidates utilizing a very specific, scientifically-based methodology. And then, once we’ve narrowed the pool to a workable number, typically less than ten (10) individuals, we offer our recommendations to our clients’ hiring authority. Our primary goal -- deliver a minimum of two candidates for every position so the client can’t choose between them due to their exemplary qualifications resulting in the client wanting to hire both. Some interesting statistics to ponder. 32 teams undergo 8 rounds of player selection resulting in 259 players decided upon in the draft each year. The odds of becoming a professional NFL player are quite low – on average about 71,060 student athletes participate and approximately 16,000 of those college players are eligible. Translation -- less than a ½ percent chance to play in the NFL as a college player. So despite #1 or #259 selection, it is an honored achievement.

Last year we witnessed one of the truly remarkable stories in professional sports. Recall the title Mr. Irrelevant. Who’s that you ask? Mr. Irrelevant is the title representing the last player selected in the NFL draft and by all expectations will disappear from the professional football landscape in very short order. Not last year! Why? Because in 2022, player #259 hailed from Iowa State and was selected by the San Francisco 49ers. Josh Purdy. Why is that such an amazing story? He was the third string quarterback at the start of the season. If you are a fan, third string players are really good at watching tapes, studying the playbook, and playing catch with like players in practice. They rarely, once in a blue moon, get into a game, even if the game is a blowout. As Divine intervention would have it, both the starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo and back up, Trey Lance were injured at the end of the season. Without much fanfare and very little expectation, the head coach looked down the bench and called up the next man standing, Josh Purdy. He led them through the first two playoff games to convincing victories. Despite losing the NFC Championship game, a student athlete from Glendale, Arizona led the 49ers with vision and composure beyond his years.

I often think about what motivates other people to do things that the general public doesn’t, and I wonder why? I believe 80% of our country is driven by those people, although we only hear about the 20% who make the news, or worse, the 1% who want to be seen but aren’t willing to work hard enough to make the difference. In the case of Josh Purdy, his clarity of thought and incredible poise in a world hyped up by so many truly insignificant variables is a lesson in purpose and preparation. His is truly ensconced in his character. We’ll see where his career is going to take him, but his story, the story of Mr. Irrelevant 2022, is perhaps the inspiration we could all use a little of these days.

Make a difference because every day you do. Care because most of us do but it’s not popular to do so. Love your family, hug your kids and grandkids, call your parents and tell them you love them often and without hesitation. Take a moment to stop and make one person smile each day, and remember … People DO Matter!

I wish you well,


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