Jets select Alabama safety Jaylen Key with the final pick as the NFL draft's 'Mr. Irrelevant'

FILE - Alabama defensive back Jaylen Key celebrates after his interception during the first half an NCAA college football game against Middle Tennessee, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The New York Jets selected Key with the the last pick, 257th overall, in the NFL draft Saturday, April 27, 2204. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt, File)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Jaylen Key knows what comes with his new nickname.

And the former Alabama safety is fully embracing being this year's “Mr. Irrelevant.”

The New York Jets selected Key with the final pick of the NFL draft Saturday — No. 257 overall — to complete the three-day, seven-round event.

“It means everything, that’s part of the title,” Key said during a video call with reporters. “You just have to take it and lean into it. So for me, I’m definitely going to lean into it, every bit of it.”

It’s the second time the Jets had the final pick in the draft, and first since they took Duke defensive tackle Fred Zirkle with the 442nd selection in 1969. Zirkle never played for New York, instead choosing a business career rather than one on the gridiron.

While the nickname was once considered a dubious honor since many “Mr. Irrelevant” picks never played a down in the NFL, Key might have a shot at sticking in the pros based on recent history.

San Francisco took Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy with the last pick in the 2022 draft and he has been anything but irrelevant.

He worked his way from third-stringer to starter as a rookie and won the starting job last season and helped the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Purdy led the NFL in passer rating, total quarterback rating and yards gained per attempt and was selected the NFC’s starting QB for the Pro Bowl.

“We have some shoes to fill behind Brock,” Key said with a smile. “But I can tell you this: We’re going to make something shake, for sure.”

While they haven’t seen nearly that sort of success yet, the other most recent “Mr. Irrelevant” picks — defensive end Desjuan Johnson (Rams, 2023), linebacker Grant Stuard (Buccaneers, 2021) and linebacker Tae Crowder (Giants, 2020) — have gone on to play significant snaps in the NFL.

Key will be part of an exclusive party first. He’ll be invited to participate in “Irrelevant Week” — a tradition that started in 1976 by former wide receiver Paul Salata in which that year’s final player selected in the NFL draft is feted during a week of events in Southern California, including a trip to Disneyland.

With the Jets, Key joins a safety group that includes Chuck Clark, Tony Adams, Ashtyn Davis and Jarrick Bernard-Converse.

“He’s been given nothing and had to earn everything,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said of Key. “The right kind of warrior makeup mentality and perseverance that is going to help him, here and in life.”

Key played his first four college seasons at UAB before transferring to Alabama. He played his way into the starting secondary for the Crimson Tide and had an interception and 60 total tackles last season.

“My overall thing going into the portal was if I’m going to do it, I’m going to go against the best talent in the country every day, so I can get better for the next level, so I can be prepared for the next level,” Key said. "So when I ultimately get to the point I’m at now, it’s really a seamless transition because I’ve already been going against the best every day.

“So, now I’m on the next level, already used to that.”

But it didn't come without a few nervous moments.

Key was following the draft as names were called one after one, and his wasn't among them. His agent was already calling him about potential teams with whom he could sign as an undrafted free agent.

“It coming down to the very last pick was pretty nerve-wracking,” Key said. "I was actually in the garage while all my family was in the living room watching. And then once I got the call, I saw that it said, ‘New York,’ and I knew you guys had the last pick, so when I saw that, I knew.

“That’s when I ran back in the house.”

Key was now an NFL player. With a relevant nickname.