Kansas City, Mo. After being saddled all his life with a name that sounds like a vulgar insult, “Mr. Irrelevant” felt like an identity upgrade.
So when he appeared before the Kansas City media during a rookie minicamp on Saturday, the last player taken in the 2009 NFL Draft was ready for question No. 1.
Your last name — uh, exactly how is it pronounced?
“It’s ‘suck-up,’ believe it or not,” Ryan Succop said with a big, good-natured grin.
When the room fell silent, he looked around and grinned again.
“I’ve heard them all,” he said. “If you come up with something new, I’ll be impressed.”
Succop remembers no fights with kids who taunted him about his name and no scuffles with teammates who didn’t know when to quit.
“Maybe some arguments,” he said. “But no fights.”
But he did notice that while serving as South Carolina’s place kicker the past three years, people rarely called him Ryan.
“I always went by my last name,” he said.
If things work out the next few months, the Hickory, N.C., native may make a name for himself in the NFL. Unlike most people drafted anywhere in the seventh round, Succop is in a good position to win a job.
His competition for place-kicking duties with the Chiefs is Connor Barth. Barth hit 10 of 12 field goals last year as a rookie, but like almost every other aspect of the 2-14 Chiefs of 2008, special teams were generally a mess.
That’s why the new Chiefs regime of general manager Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley drafted a kick returner and a kicker and are taking a look at several special-teams prospects at a rookie free agent camp this weekend.
“We want competition in as many positions as we can,” Haley said. “(Succop) was somebody that our special-teams coach had gone and worked out and really liked.”
Succop was 20-for-30 for South Carolina last year despite a painful abdominal injury that hampered him much of the season. He was 13-for-17 in 2007 with three of his misses from 47 yards or beyond.
“Right now, I’m just trying to really work hard and prepare the best I can for all the practices and offseason workouts and try to get ready for the season the best I can,” he said.
As the last man drafted, he’s in for a grand celebration in Newport Beach, Calif., next month that will include a parade and plenty of prizes.
He has taken it all in stride.
“I didn’t choose to be Mr. Irrelevant,” said the 256th man drafted. “It just worked out that way. I’m just trying not to get caught up in it and focus more on the task at hand, which is trying to come in here and help the team. It’s not one of those things I really think about too much, to be honest.”
That’s the advice he got from Pioli and Haley.
“That’s a worry. This ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ has become such a big thing,” Haley said. “We just kind of reminded him that he was the last pick in the draft, so he had his work cut out for him making this team, and try not to be distracted any more than any of the other players — that he had a job to try to win.”
So far, the Chiefs like what they see in the hardworking young man with the unusual name.
“I like his demeanor,” Haley said. “He’s a calm, level guy, and at that position, with the pressure that ends up on those kickers, that’s a big item. He carries himself well. He hasn’t collapsed out there yet.”