aving a steer named Mr. Irrelevant does not seem all that weird to Preston Jones. The former Perry High (Gilbert, Ariz.) football coach chose the name after learning it is the moniker bestowed upon the last player picked in the NFL draft. Brock Purdy … for example.
Little did the San Francisco 49ers know when they grabbed Purdy with the 262nd selection that the rookie would become their starting quarterback this season. No one could have expected the 49ers would lose Jimmy Garoppolo to a foot injury and go 6-0 with Purdy in relief.
How often does a team lose its top two quarterbacks to injuries, go with a rookie behind center instead of scrambling to sign a veteran, win 11 consecutive games and become the odds-on favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVII? Anyone who claims they could see this coming is full of bull.
That takes us back to Jones, who chose Mr. Irrelevant as his steer’s name because he was Perry’s coach when Purdy was making a name for himself as the Pumas quarterback. Jones’ daughter suggested Frisco as the steer’s name, but Jones warned her that the steer would likely be with the family longer than Purdy’s stay in the Bay Area.
The life expectancy of a steer is 15 to 20 years. The life expectancy for Mr. Irrelevant is 15 minutes if he is lucky. Seven quarterbacks have been selected with the last pick since 1936 and Purdy is just the second to appear in a regular-season game.
“These are unchartered waters for Mr. Irrelevant. It’s so cool to see a great person beat the odds,” said Jones, who retired from coaching in 2021 after leading Perry’s football program since the school opened in 2007. He still teaches at the school with nearly 3,500 students.
Jones was not glued to his television during the 2022 draft last April. He was doing yard work on April 30 when the draft reached the seventh round and took an occasional break to sneak a peek. He had been in contact with Purdy’s parents, who were going to throw a party whether or not their son was picked. The 49ers became the life of the party with a relevant pick for Jones and the Purdy family.
Purdy will always be Mr. Irrelevant for 2022. Jones named his steer before Purdy played in a preseason game with the 49ers. Once Jones saw how Purdy handled himself against “such freaks,” Jones changed his tune and began to believe Purdy could play in the NFL.
There is little doubt now. Some will credit Purdy’s composure to all the snaps he took as a four-year starter at Iowa State. And to think the 49ers selected Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick in 2021 even though he played in just 19 games over three years at North Dakota State.
Jones “noticed something different” when Purdy was a freshman at Perry in 2013. “It wasn’t so much his talent. It was more his demeanor. He was all business and expected everybody else to be all business. He was still a very likable kid. Everyone gravitated to him.”
Luck was on Jones’ side when he traveled to Levi’s Stadium on Oct. 23 to watch the 49ers play the Kansas City Chiefs. With the 49ers trailing by 21 points in the fourth quarter, Purdy made his NFL debut and completed his first pass for 20 yards to Ray-Ray McCloud. That made Purdy the first Mr. Irrelevant in NFL history to complete a pass.
Jones went out to dinner with Purdy after the game and was somewhat surprised that Purdy was not recognized in the restaurant. “I was very, very lucky I took the time to do that then,” Jones said. “I don’t know if we could do it now. His life has totally changed.”