By Jason Iannone
With the 2014 NFL Draft rapidly approaching, the nation begins to wet itself in anticipation. Who will go first? Who will go last? Who will eat too many free snacks on camera and look like an absolute pig to an entire nation?
Most importantly, will anything memorably goofy occur? We sure as hell hope so, because a Draft without silliness is nothing more than a boring roll call of kids eager to lug other people’s bags around for the next year. Here are five of our favorite fun moments, none of which are “that time everybody booed Roger Goodell.” If we allowed that, then this list would quickly devolve into “Top 5 Times Everybody Booed the Crap Out of Roger Goodell.”
5. The Redskins Draft the Same Ineligible Player Twice
You know how people define insanity as repeating the same mistake over and over while expecting different results? That’s exactly what happened with the Washington Redskins in 1946 and 1947. They were high on a promising young rusher/cornerback named Cal Rossi, and were thrilled to see that he was still available when their first-round pick (#9) came up in that year’s draft. They pounced immediately.
They then immediately learned why nobody had taken Rossi yet: because he was never on the board. He was a junior, and back then juniors were ineligible to go pro. That’s what happens when your team’s clueless owner drafts based on good write-ups in the local paper. Seriously, that’s how he decided that Rossi was The One. And you thought the current owner of the Redskins was a moron.
No worries though, there was always next year. So come 1947, the Redskins pounced on Rossi again. He was a senior finally, and just as good as before. There was just one issue: he didn’t want to play pro ball. In fact, he had already signed up for the Navy by the time Draft Day came around, a factoid that the editor of the Redskins’ local paper thoughtlessly left out. What a poor talent scout that newspaper editor turned out to be.
4. The Vikings Forget How to Draft Two Years in a Row
Speaking of insanity, here we have a professional football team, one that has endured many a draft over the years, one fully aware of how clocks and timers work, forgetting how clocks and timers work twice in two years. For some reason, they were not banned from drafting for the rest of eternity.
Strike one occurred in 2002, when the Vikings had the seventh pick in the first round. The Kansas City Chiefs had the sixth, and apparently used their voodoo chief magic to convince the Vikings that they had run out of time, thereby forfeiting their pick. Reacting quickly, the Vikings submitted their pick, a guy named Ryan Sims, only to be told that no, the Chiefs had not run out of time, and in fact had just drafted Sims minutes prior. It’s always that one little thing you forget about that wallops you in the end.
Strikes two through skip a few, ninety-nine, one hundred came the very next year, when the Vikings paid the price for assuming another team had run out of time by running out of time themselves. They were so busy attempting to iron out a trade with the Baltimore Ravens, but time ran out before either team could notify league officials of their intentions. Just like that, the Vikings lost out on their first-round pick, and had to scramble to draft somebody else — anybody else — as soon as possible, just so they didn’t look like complete losers.
It’s probably just as well the Vikings haven’t made it to the Super Bowl in damn near 40 years. They’d probably set their alarms wrong and arrive at the stadium on the following Tuesday.
3. The 1979 Debut of the Mr. Irrelevant Lowsman Trophy
The Mr. Irrelevant moniker is one of the most shockingly sought-after titles in sports. People remember you most if you’re first, but it turns out placing dead last is a close second.
To that end, in 1979, the NFL introduced an honest-to-goodness trophy commemorating each year’s Mr. Irrelevant. As befitting a position that more often than not results in the player being sent packing within months, the trophy is a ridiculous parody of the proud Heisman Trophy. Instead of a noble old-timey footballer cradling the ball in his arms as he runs down the field for a touchdown, the “Lowsman” Trophy features said player’s failure of a brother fumbling the ball with a stupid look on his face that screams to the world, “IS TACO BELL HIRING?”
The first recipient of the coveted-ish Lowsman Trophy was a guy named Mike Almond. His team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, were so impressed by Mr. Irrelevant’s gumption that they cut him in the middle of camp. He never played again after that. Well, at least he’ll always have that trophy, unless he sold it for cash.
2. Dontari and Roger, Sittin’ In a Tree
Big, tough, growl-heavy athletes aren’t drafted for their social grace. So when you stick them in a suit and have them walk up on stage to meet the Commissioner of the NFL and shake his hand, there’s always the chance they’ll screw up this basic human interaction. Usually, this happens via awkward phony smiles, horribly inept high-fives and suits so ugly the costume designers for Dumb and Dumber would’ve turned them down.
And then you have Dontari Poe, the Kansas City Chief’s first round pick in the 2012 Draft. He chose to make his mark on the evening by invading Roger Goodell’s personal space in an absurdly awkward manner, not to mention a romantic one.
Check it out and see for yourself. For all intents and purposes, Poe was ready to kiss Goodell — their faces and lips were that damn close together. Clearly, Poe was excited about embarking on an exciting new journey in his life, but we had no idea he’d be THIS excited.
1. The 1972 Atlanta Falcons Draft John Wayne Because Why The Hell Not
By the time they got to the 17th round, the 1972 Atlanta Falcons had taken everybody they wanted. So for their final pick, they decided not to give one more kid a chance to realize their dream, but instead to make a corny joke. They drafted, out of Apache University, a promising bruiser named John Wayne. You know — the actor.
Yes, they drafted a 65-year-old celebrity, even referencing one of his movies, Fort Apache, when announcing what school he attended. They weren’t thick enough to think he’d actually report to training camp (though him not doing so is perhaps the greatest missed opportunity in humor history) — they literally just wanted to be wacky.
Personally, we think that, after 40-plus years, the time is right for some team to repeat the joke. Maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars can draft Jason Statham or Stone Cold Steve Austin or whoever. What’s the worst that could happen — the Jaguars lose a ton of games and suffer a crappy season? Perish the thought.
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