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Inaugural Mr. Irrelevant dies at 49

July 13, 2003

This is tragedy. Life taken way too soon. Great sports memories can

pump joy in our spirit, only trailing God and family on the grand

scheme of the pecking order. But death is reality, too, and we lost

another friend earlier this month when the inaugural Mr. Irrelevant,

Kelvin Kirk, died suddenly while playing pickup basketball. He was

49.

Kirk, who played 78 games in the Canadian Football League and was

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known as a speedy receiver for the Ottawa Rough Riders, paved the way

for Irrelevant Week in Newport Beach.

The defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers selected

Kirk, a receiver out of Dayton, with the final pick (No. 487) in the

1976 NFL draft and IW founder Paul Salata was there with his big warm

hands to greet Kirk, put his arm around him and invite him to a

weeklong party, roast and celebration never seen before on earth.

After all, doing something nice for somebody for no reason has a good

underbelly for public relations, but Salata & Co. began raising money

for charity and Irrelevant Week became nationally famous with Salata

at the NFL draft podium to announce each year's final pick.

Kirk, who inaugurated Irrelevant Week by missing his plane, was

cut by the Steelers after training camp that summer, but ended up

with a fine CFL career, which included catching 103 passes for 2,942

yards and 16 touchdowns for Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and

Saskatchewan. He returned punts and kickoffs. His 22-game stretch

with Ottawa, from 1981 through '83, included an appearance in the

Rough Riders' 26-23 Grey Cup loss to the Edmonton Eskimos.

"Kelvin was just a delight to be around," fellow former Rough

Riders receiver Bruce Walker said in the Ottawa Citizen. "You

couldn't say a negative thing about him. I remember arriving at

practice every day and Kelvin would have drawn all sorts of

caricatures on the chalkboard. When (Coach) George Brancato would

come in, he would have to erase the pictures or draw the plays around

the pictures."

Added former Ottawa receiver Jeff Avery: "[Kirk] made us laugh,

drawing little scenes of what went on at practice. I'm just in shock

about this right now."

Kirk, who died July 2, worked in the Ottawa Citizen's advertising

department since 1989. He lived in the Aylmer section of Gatineau

with his son, Jonathan. Kirk is the fourth of the 28 Irrelevant Week

honorees to die.

"He was a great athlete, he had such great speed, and I remember

in the Grey Cup game [in 1981] when he broke open and [quarterback]

J.C. Watts overthrew him by maybe six inches," former Ottawa Rough

Riders general manager Don Holtby told the Citizen. "It would have

been a different game. It sits in my mind, I still remember it like

it was yesterday ... he was such a gentleman. He had such a great

personality. He was a good, good person, well-liked by everybody."

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