Former USC, NFL And CFL End Paul Salata, Founder Of Mr. Irrelevant Award, Dies
LOS ANGELES —Paul Salata, an end on the USC football team in the mid-1940s and then in the NFL and CFL who founded the Mr. Irrelevant Award to honor the last selection of the NFL Draft, died today (Saturday, Oct. 16) in Newport Beach, Calif., of natural causes. He was 94, passing a day shy of his 95th birthday.
Salata lettered at end for USC in 1944, 1946 and 1947. The Trojans won league titles each year and played in the Rose Bowl in the 1944 (he caught a touchdown in a shutout win over Tennessee) and 1947 seasons. He missed the 1945 season while in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
He also lettered as an infielder on the 1948 Trojan baseball team that won the program's first College World Series championship.
Salata played in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers (1949-50), Baltimore Colts (1950) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1950-51), catching 50 passes with 4 touchdowns in his career. He also was in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders (1952) and Ottawa Roughriders (1953), earning CFL All-Star honors in 1952.
He also played minor league baseball.
After his playing days, he was in the construction business, notably as a successful sewer contractor. He also was a generous philanthropist and a popular master of ceremony. He also had bit parts in several movies primarily in the 1950s, including "Stalag 17," "Angels in the Outfield" and "The Joker Is Wild."
He created the Mr. Irrelevant Award in 1976, presented annually to the last overall pick in the NFL Draft. The awardee was feted during Irrelevant Week activities in Orange County.
Salata is survived by his wife of 15 years, Carolyn, his son Bradley, his daughter Melanie Fitch (Edward III), his granddaughters Alix and Marie Fitch, his brother George and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by wife Beverly in 2003.
A memorial service will be held on Nov. 8 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Stevens Cathedral (1621 W Garvey Ave, Alhambra, CA 91803).