Mr. Irrelevant is about to play a significant role in Sunday’s Grey Cup.
Long snapper and Hamilton native Kevin Malcolm was the very last pick in the 2014 CFL Draft – in NFL parlance, the final selection is known as “Mr. Irrelevant – but will suit up for the Ottawa Redblacks against the Edmonton Eskimos in the championship game.
“I grew up watching it and it’s surreal to actually be a part of it, ” Malcolm said this week. “It’s crazy.”
And that might be the longest sentence Kevin Malcolm has ever uttered.
The 24-year-old is quiet to the extreme, a man of amazingly few words. When Ottawa’s media relations staff announced that Malcolm had an interview – his first this season – the whole team cheered.
“You mean Malcolm can speak?” joked quarterback Henry Burris.
But an even-keeled disposition comes in handy, considering the pressures of the job. As a long snapper – the guy that fires the ball between his legs on punts and field goals – Malcolm would go unnoticed up until the exact moment something goes wrong.
A misfire by long snapper usually results in a bad turnover or missed points.
It can even cost his team the game.
Luckily for Ottawa, Malcolm has never had a snap go awry during a game. Ever. Not in minor football – he started long snapping at 10 years old – not in five years at Bishop Tonnos secondary school, not in five more with the McMaster Marauders, where he fired the ball back for that famous Vanier Cup-winning kick in 2011.
And certainly not in his first season as a pro.
For Ottawa kicker Chris Milo – Malcolm’s road roommate – that’s invaluable.
“He’s very consistent and puts the ball where it needs to be every time and I have total confidence that it’s going to be there, ” Milo said. “It makes my job a hell of a lot easier: I can just do my thing.”
At just five-foot-10, 215 pounds, Malcolm isn’t the most imposing physical specimen and says he’s been hearing that he’s too small to play with the big boys for years. He tore his ACL during his fourth year at McMaster – he missed almost all of his final season – but the Redblacks took a chance on him anyway.
“We thought it was worth taking a shot on his health because we know he had the ability. So far, it’s turned out pretty good, ” said general manager Marcel Desjardins. “His demeanour is just Mr. Steady Eddie and that’s what we wanted. He’s a great kid.”
That’s Milo’s assessment, too. The two have spent much of this week in Winnipeg in the leadup to the big game holed up in their room playing FIFA soccer on PlayStation. Malcolm has been on something of a winning streak and has started to gloat. A little.
“He’s man of few words but we’ve gotten to each other and he’s come out of his shell a little bit, ” Milo said. “He’s become a great friend and it’s been fun to share this experience with him.”
Malcolm grew up watching games at the old Ivor Wynne Stadium and every November the family would hold a Grey Cup party – one of his earliest CFL memories is watching Hamilton’s 1999 Grey Cup win.
Now, much of the Malcolm clan will be in Winnipeg to watch Kevin play in the big game.
“It’s pretty special for my family, ” Malcolm said. “For me, too.”
Few words, but well spoken. And very relevant.