Cunningham named Mr. Irrelevant

Justice Cunningham was so irrelevant Saturday the announcer initially uttered the wrong name.

No, it’s not Justice Hamilton. It’s Justice Cunningham.

Indianapolis selected the 6-foot-4, 264-pound tight end from South Carolina with the 254th and final pick in the NFL draft Saturday. Cunningham will be honored with a trip to Disneyland and the Irrelevant Week Parade in Newport Beach, Calif., this summer.

”I most definitely did hear it, and I’ll remember it,” Cunningham said jokingly moments after being the last player chosen on draft weekend.

For most of final four rounds, Cunningham sat and wondered when — or if — he would get picked.

And as the picks wound down, he seemed resigned to having to start his professional football career as an undrafted free agent. Then, out of nowhere, the phone rang.

”They called at the last minute,” Cunningham said, explaining that he was already pondering options about where he might sign.

What the Colts are getting is a 6-foot-4, 264-pound tight end who earned his keep with the Gamecocks as a blocker. In four seasons, he caught just 49 passes for 544 yards and one TD. Nearly half of those catches (22) during his final college season. He also will team with an old cross-state rival, Dwayne Allen, of Clemson to help run the new offense of Pep Hamilton.

What Cunningham gets is membership into a unique club and a week to celebrate his new title in California.

He’ll visit Disneyland, appear in the Irrelevant Week parade in Newport Beach, Calif., and the proceeds will go to Special Olympics of Southern California. Chandler Harnish, last year’s Mr. Irrelevant, even has offered to put his new teammate and club member in the locker next to his.

”Sounds good. I like that,” Cunningham said.

But there was some confusion initially, even with Cunningham when Paul Salada, who founded Irrelevant Week in 1976, announced that Justin Hamilton had been taken by the Colts. Salada quickly corrected himself and Cunningham could finally breathe easy when Salada held up the blue-and-white Colts jersey this time with the No. 254. Harnish was No. 253.

It’s the first time since Oakland in 2003 and 2004 that the same team made the final pick of the draft in back-to-back years.

A year ago, it was Harnish, who made the team as Indy’s No. 3 quarterback. He will likely fill the same role this season with Andrew Luck entrenched as the starter and former Super Bowl starter Matt Hasselbeck now penciled in as the backup.

Regardless, it was just what Cunningham wanted to hear.

”I feel a whole lot better,” Cunningham said. ”My dream came true and I got drafted. It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you finish.”