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  1. #1
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    Irrelevant, not so much

    By David Carrillo Peńaloza

    NEWPORT BEACH — When the last pick in the NFL Draft rode in the back of a police truck, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and a ball and chain, two long-suffering Rams fans suffered more.

    Locals Brad Stevenson and Keith Harris came to see David Vobora at the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort Monday night as if he were the team’s savior.

    Vobora looked more like a criminal than a linebacker. Well, he is a rookie from the University of Idaho Vandals.

    Call him Mr. Irrelevant XXXIII.

    For these two fans any player from the Rams returning home to Orange County is a hero. The “Save the Rams” effort is long over with, the Rams moved to St. Louis prior to the 1995 season.

    Now it was time to bail out Vobora.

    Vobora reminded Stevenson and Harris of the Rams first-round selection in the 1996 NFL Draft.

    Lawrence Phillips was taken as the sixth overall pick that year. And the former Nebraska running back fumbled away his opportunity by putting up more numbers on the police blotter than on the field.

    Once Stevenson, 47, and Harris, 46, figured out that Vobora’s situation was a hoax they were relieved at the Irrelevant Week arrival party. But somehow they still believed in Vobora turning around a 3-13 franchise.

    In a meet and greet with a couple of hundred fans, the two patiently waited to shake hands with the 6-foot-1, 242-pound Vobora.

    After meeting with family members, hugging a dozen or so eager grandmothers, and cooperating with a couple of TV reporters asking silly questions like, “How long have they been doing this” Mr. Irrelevant, Vobora freed himself up for Stevenson and Harris.

    First, Vobora assured them about the Rams future, even when he didn’t even know his own. Not every Mr. Irrelevant makes it in the NFL. Just because you’re in the latest Madden video game doesn’t guarantee anything.

    “I’ll tell you,” said Vobora, wearing a No. 252 jersey reflecting where he was chosen in the draft, dead last. “This is going to be a good year for the Rams. You know the last time [quarterback] Trent Green came to the Rams they won the Super Bowl [in 1999]?”

    “Yeah, because he got injured,” responded Harris as Vobora grinned.

    “If Trent Green goes down in the preseason, he’ll be measuring you for rings, baby!” said Stevenson as Vobora’s smile grew bigger.

    The closest Vobora will get to such a prize is the over-sized key given to him to the city of Newport Beach at the beginning of the arrival party.

    Someone joked that the key looked more like a key to the local ARCO bathroom. Vobora kept it anyway and sported it around his neck like some clock on Flavor Flav.

    The timing couldn’t have been better after hearing he was heading to Disneyland today and to the Playboy Mansion Friday.

    Christmas really came early to Vobora. Anything you can imagine from used golf balls to a dozen combs, song girls from Los Alamitos High brought the gifts out, modeled for them, and then handed them to Vobora sitting on a lifeguard tower.

    “An Arena Football [League] shirt,” Paul Salata, the founder of Irrelevant Week, announced the latest gag gift. “In case you don’t make the [NFL], you put this on.”

    Vobora put the shirt to the side, believing a family member from Oregon would make better use of it.

    The experts say Vobora has a chance to join the Rams, who are low on the depth chart at linebacker. His grandmothers, Lu Vobora and Toni Putney, think he’s a lock.

    Lu came to the party in style. The 75-year-old wore a poncho, with the Rams logo and colors, blue and gold, and Vobora’s name on the back.

    “I happened to be on a Panama cruise [recently],” she said. “The tour guide that I was with had gone into one of the countries in [Latin] America and he saw this [poncho] and he knew [Vobora] was Mr. Irrelevant. So he bought this for me.

    “When I came home [to Medford, Ore.], I had [Vobora] embroidered on the back.”

    Putney, in a more casual look, said Lu outdid everyone with the poncho. Their grandson did as well the day before the arrival party.

    Vobora rode in an orange Lamborghini and drove it.

    “As long as I don’t get in trouble I’ll tell you it was 130 in the third gear,” Vobora said of how fast he drove. “And the guy who owned the car said, ‘You need to hammer it. You’re a linebacker, why don’t you hit it harder?’”

    Maybe if Vobora had, Mr. Irrelevant would’ve been locked up in jail, making him a no-show to his own party Monday.

  2. #2
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    Re: Irrelevant, not so much

    He’s incredibly irrelevant

    By David Carrillo Peńaloza

    ANAHEIM — You know when Mickey Mouse waves you off with his white gloves you’re nobody special.

    “Over here Sorcerer Mickey!” someone called out at California Adventure Park. “Mr. Irrelevant is here to meet you.”

    Mickey turned his head, looked at David Vobora, who wore a St. Louis Rams shirt with the No. 252 on the back, and proceeded to walk the other way.

    No children stood in Mickey’s new path. The kids actually surrounded Vobora as if he were an NFL star.

    In reality, Vobora was the last player chosen in the recent NFL Draft.

    Mickey must have figured out that there wasn’t enough magic in the park Tuesday to turn the 252nd pick into the top choice.

    Money, yes, but Vobora saw none of it. The former University of Idaho linebacker barely had enough for a $3 churro.

    The treat made up for Mickey’s rudeness, as Vobora ignored it and enjoyed Day 2 of Irrelevant Week XXXIII with family and friends.

    Maybe Mickey knew Vobora flirted with Minnie Mouse earlier.

    “She looked good today,” Vobora said.

    Vobora tried to look the part of a mouse to impress Minnie. But there wasn’t a big enough Mickey ears hat to fit his giant head.

    The day before the 6-foot-1, 242-pound Vobora planned to sport the ears.

    “You probably won’t even notice who the kids are because I’ll be running around with my Mickey ears, jumping from ride to ride,” he said.

    Vobora still stood out. The reason: Who in their right mind would wear Rams gear at Disneyland, down the street from where the Rams used to play football before moving to St. Louis prior to the 1995 season?

    The Rams were the original Los Angeles Rams of Anaheim before the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim recently tried to fool fans with their location.

    Aren’t they really the “Angels in the Outfield?” Disney used to own the Angels. No more. Maybe that’s why Vobora went to a Los Angeles Dodgers game Tuesday night.

    More than the game, Vobora looked forward to eating a grilled Dodger Dog for the first time before taking batting practice with one of the most irrelevant baseball teams since the 1988 season.

    “There’s nothing better than a cheap ballgame hot dog,” said Vobora, sounding like a future multi-million dollar NFL player.

    Hot dogs at professional sporting events aren’t cheap. At Dodger Stadium, one will set you back about $5, a couple of bucks more than the churro at California Adventure.

    And back to the churro. Before Vobora chewed on his, he and a complete stranger, Melody Jemmeth, greeted each other by hitting each other’s churro like some sword fight.

    They’re both from Oregon, Vobora from Eugene and Jemmeth from Hermiston. The churro exchange must be one of those Oregon oddities, like it being illegal to pump your own gas.

    The weirdness didn’t stop. Jemmeth asked Vobora for a favor.

    “Can you sign this?” said Jemmeth, handing Vobora the napkin that was wrapped around her churro.

    Vobora tried. Nothing came out on the clear napkin.

    One thing was clear. Vobora wasn’t going to write his number and ask Jemmeth to be his date to the Playboy Mansion Friday.

    Vobora knew the place he was at Tuesday was dreamlike. But Hugh Hefner’s home in Los Angeles captured his imagination more than the Disney characters like Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible, and Goofy standing nearby.

    “I take bribes,” said Vobora, adding that he has no date as of yet to the mansion. “If you put it out on the table, maybe you’ll end up getting a ticket. Who knows?”

    Mr. Irrelevant’s sidekick for the week is Roy Schuening, an offensive lineman from Oregon State who is a fifth-round pick of the Rams.

    The 6-4, 313-pounder said he doesn’t get excited often, even for tonight’s All-Star Lowsman Banquet at 6 and Rams Reunion at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa.

    But mention the Playboy Mansion and he gets animated like Hamm, the piggy bank character from “Toy Story.”

    “That’s like a dream of mine,” said Schuening, who can easily be mistaken for a bouncer or bodyguard.

    He’ll be whatever to set foot in the mansion and meet playmates.

    “I used to be a bouncer. In college I did it,” he said. “I don’t even get along with bouncers. Most of them are like half my size, so their always starting stuff with me.”

    See, Mickey would never wave someone off the size of Schuening.

    Well, he’s not Mr. Irrelevant XXXIII. He’s already signed a three-year deal reportedly worth $1.2 million with the Rams.

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