Moments after the Giants called to make Tae Crowder's NFL dreams come true, the 23-year-old linebacker got a call from a woman he didn't know. She offered to make the rest of his dreams come true - dreams he may have never considered. Whatever Crowder wanted, she said, she could make it happen.
Crowder said he wanted pancakes.
So he will get pancakes. Lots of them. As many flavors and styles as the cooks can imagine. Melanie Fitch will make it happen because she, her father Paul, and her army of volunteers, have been doing that for the last pick in the NFL Draft for 45 years. This year, that's Crowder, the 255th and final pick of the 2020 draft. He's "Mr. Irrelevant."
And for that he gets "Irrelevant Week" - a celebration where whatever Mr. Irrelevant wants, Mr. Irrelevant gets.
"We tailor and personalize it around him," Fitch said. "In the past, some of the Mr. Irrelevants have never seen a beach, so they want a beach party. Or they want to learn how to surf, or they want to go sailing, or they want to golf, so we make an Irrelevant golf tournament."
So Crowder will get his pancake breakfast and whatever else he wants. Probably even a puppy.
Just not yet.
It's been a long time since the Giants have had a Mr. Irrelevant, a tradition that was started by former 49ers receiver Paul Salata back in 1976. The last one was in 1991 when the Giants took Larry Wanke, a quarterback from John Carroll with the 334th overall pick. Their only other was Cal running back John Tuggle, the 335th pick in 1983. They did have fullback Jim Finn on their roster from 2003-07, but he was taken as the last pick of the 1999 draft by the Indianapolis Colts.
In the 45 years since Salata pitched the "Mr. Irrelevant" idea to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle as a "celebration of the underdog," the name has become iconic, especially when it comes to the NFL Draft. Most players know of the label when they get it, but they don't always know everything that comes with it - like a week of celebrations in Newport Beach, Calif., a trophy, a banquet, and a seemingly endless parade of personalized gifts.
"Obviously I can (have some fun with it) now that I read up on it," Crowder said. "But at first, I knew about Mr. Irrelevant but I didn't know all of the stuff that came with it. It's pretty special for me and my family. We'll have fun with it."
"What we'll usually do is have a couple of the former Mr. Irrelevants call him and say 'OK, these people aren't really crazy. It really is fun,'" Fitch said. "'They're not going to do weird things to you. They really do celebrate you.' And then when they come out, they're like 'Wait. You really are being nice to me.' And it's like, 'Yeah, that's what we keep telling you.'"
"Irrelevant Week" has gotten a little bigger since the days of Tuggle and even Wanke, though Salata's original idea is still basically the same. Crowder's trip to Southern California - which is obviously temporarily on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic -- is completely paid for by an army of sponsors. He gets a big arrival party. He gets honored at the Lowsman banquet and presented with the Lowsman Trophy - which looks like the Heisman, only with the player fumbling the ball. Celebrities will be there to "roast and toast him," Fitch said. If there's a particular celebrity Crowder wants to meet, they'll try to arrange that, too.
There is a trip to Disneyland with a parade and some fun with the Disney characters. There's a sailing regatta and a trip to a baseball game where he'll throw out the "last" pitch at a Dodgers or Angels game. There are trips to the NFL Network and Fox studios, and interviews with ESPN.
And there could be endless other surprises. Tuggle, for example, had played in the famous 1982 Cal-Stanford game that ended with a kickoff return for a touchdown while the Stanford band ran on the field. So when he came out for his "Irrelevant Week" the organizers tracked down Gary Tyrell, the trombonist who was run over on that final touchdown, and had him serenade Tuggle at his arrival party, and then follow him around and play as Tuggle arrived at every event.
And at every step, they raise money for charity - more than $1 million since the beginning, Fitch said. They've purchased prosthetic legs for children to enable them to play sports. They've rebuilt athletic fields in underprivileged areas. And they invite hundreds of those underprivileged children to their "Irrelevant Week" events. Like in 2018, when new Redskins receiver Trey Quinn got his surfing lessons (on a surfboard with the Redskins logo and 'Mr. Irrelevant, Trey Quinn, #256' printed on it). Fitch said a few hundred kids came along for a day at the beach, complete with surfing lessons, a barbecue and "Baywatch girls," too.
Crowder's "Irrelevant Week" is still in the planning stages, but it doesn't sound like a beach party will be a part of his adventure.
"Evidently, Tae doesn't really swim," Fitch said. "We want to return him … We want to make our campsite cleaner than we found it, you know? We don't want to return a player with his arm in a sling. We don't want to drown him. So we will tailor what he wants to do according to his interests."
The only lingering question for Fitch is: When? Thanks to the current pandemic, restrictions on travel, and the inability to hold large gatherings in California, she's not sure when "Irrelevant Week" will happen. It would normally take place in late June, after the NFL's offseason program is over. Fitch said she's been in contact with the Giants ever since the compensatory draft picks were announced and they were given Pick No. 255 and she said she'll work with them to find a date that doesn't conflict with any football activities.
She's hopeful that enough restrictions are lifted so that Crowder can get his week sometime this summer for his "15 seconds of fame." But it will happen at some point. They have no intention of letting those 15 seconds pass, and making Crowder the most irrelevant Mr. Irrelevant of all.
"Tae is going to be Mr. Irrelevant until a new one is picked, right?" Fitch said. "So I have a year that I could celebrate him. Even if they don't allow us to have him until August or September, this isn't like the Kentucky Derby where it has to be the first Sunday in May. We can slide it. As soon as they give us the thumbs up and the go ahead, we can plug in."
And once that happens, there will be pancakes, because when Fitch asked Crowder what he wanted, that's what he said. He could've named celebrities he wanted to meet, as other Mr. Irrelevants have done, or asked for a trip to the Playboy Mansion. They once held a "Miss Irrelevant" pageant for an honoree who was single and looking for love. They've sent players on a tour of the hottest nightclubs in the areas. One went on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Crowder? He wanted pancakes.
"We know that he likes pancakes, so there's going to be I'm sure a flooding of different kinds of pancakes to have his palate appreciate," she said. "Different flavors and different things. He's from Georgia so he's a Bulldog and we call Irrelevant Week the 'Celebration of the Underdog' so I'm sure there's going to be a lot of bulldogs coming around. He said he wouldn't mind if he had one so we may see some bulldogs in the mix."
Crowder told Fitch he's "game" for anything - not all the honorees are, especially at first. And whenever they're able to hold "Irrelevant Week," it sounds like "anything" is exactly what Crowder will get.
"It's fun," Fitch said. "They usually go back exhausted. But it's their 15 seconds of fame and we're glad to put it together for him."