Kevin McMahan.....

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McMahan's aim: Relevance
Last man selected in draft, 'Mr. Irrelevant,' trying to beat odds and make Raiders


Bill Soliday



NAPA — Three times in the past four years, the last player taken in the NFL draft has selected by the Oakland Raiders. In 2003 and 2004 it didn't work out for the kid who wound up with the title "Mr. Irrelevant."
Kevin McMahan wants to see it turn out different this time, but the shirt he was wearing says it all ... or at least part of all.

It's a Raiders shirt presented to him by the Newport Beach group that honors the last player drafted every year with what they call the "Lowsman" award — as opposed to Heisman.

The name they printed on the back of the shirt reads "McMahon."

"Usually I don't wear it, but around here I do because they made a mistake and spelled it wrong," McMahan said good-naturedly.

It's another way of saying they got it all wrong. Mr. Irrelevant is determined to be relevant.

Oh the shame of it all. First the shirt, then the roster put out by the Raiders and handed out to guests at their camp practices. That roster says McMahan joined the club as a free agent instead of as a draft choice, even if it was seventh round.

While it is true the bash they throw down in Orange County for Mr. Irrelevant is impressive, filled with pomp and celebration so impressivefrom Sports 1


McMahan called it "the best week ever."

Others, however, might think a civic celebration of, to be brutally honest, mediocrity would be more curse than blessing.

Not McMahan.

All the to-do about being last just gets his competitive juices flowing.

"I honestly think it is a blessing," the lithe 6-2, 200-pounder said. "People look at it many different ways, but I look at it as motivation to have been taken last.

"So many guys were taken before you, especially at the wide receiver spot, you look and think 'Man, I could have been taken there or there or there.' Look at this team and this staff. I've got Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, coach (Fred) Biletnikoff here. I am going against Willie Brown's defensive backs.

"I think there is a reason for everything, and the reason I am here is a blessing. Imagine having a guy like Randy Moss there to tell you to get your stuff together. I am going to listen to him. I happen to think I am in a very good situation."

McMahan went into the draft thinking he would be in a different situation altogether.

"The 49ers are the team that talked to me every week for the last month and a half (before the April draft)," McMahan said. "I was telling everybody that more than likely I was going to be in the Bay. But I meant San Francisco."

But the 49ers phoned him in the middle of the sixth round with bad news.

"They said more than likely they were not going to take a wide receiver with their last pick," McMahan said. "After they took whoever it was they took (Arkansas defensive back Vickiel Vaughn), I got out a big spreadsheet I had made with all the teams that wanted me in free agency, who their starters were, who the backups were. I started looking at my best situations."

Moments later the phone rang.

"Oakland called," he said. "I was like 'Oakland?' I hadn't even heard from Oakland at all. I didn't believe the lady and asked if she was playing a joke on me. She said 'No, I'm serious.'

"I was like 'Wow!' The house just went crazy. I was ecstatic."

McMahan majored in accounting at Maine. He was fully aware that as a free agent, he would have more options than a seventh round draft choice. The free agent can choose who to sign with, and it usually pays off with a bigger contract due to the competition involved.

Then again there is prestige involved with having been an NFL draft pick and that appealed to McMahan. Then there was Newport Beach.

The Mr. Irrelevant thing is far from small potatoes. The event has a CEO (Melanie Salata Fitch) and an advisory board that includes Merlin Olsen, Peter Ueberroth, Bill Walsh, Jack Youngblood, Jim Tunney and Mrs. Commissioner — Emily Tagliabue.

McMahan and his family were flown in for the festivities honoring the 255th and last player drafted.

"It was a great experience," McMahan said. "They treat you right."

It was the 31st annual bash, originally the idea of founder Paul Salata. Despite the tongue-in-cheek title, the event is not designed to celebrate "irrelevance," rather to honor the notion of "the underdog."

McMahan knows he is trying to make the Raiders roster. To wit, he arrived late for Irrelevant Week in order not to miss a team practice — even though the Raiders had excused him to fly to Newport.

"I just didn't want to miss practice," McMahan said.

He hopes to do better than Ryan Hoag in 2003 and Andre Sommersell in 2004, Raiders picks who made Newport but not the roster. If he's to be last, McMahan would rather be more like final Raiders picks who did make it in the NFL — Rolf Benirschke (1977), Reggie Kinlaw (1979), Grady Jackson (1997) and Ronald Curry (2002).

He'll keep the shirt to remind himself.
 
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