Cheta and family at the NFL Network studio. Josephine, Ngozi, Cheta, Chin and Chuck Ozougwu. (Steve Virgen, Daily Pilot / June 22, 2011)

  • Related

ANAHEIM — Cheta Ozougwu is as much a fan of the characters at Disneyland as he is of an animated one on the NFL Network. He wanted to meet Mickey Mouse before Warren Sapp on Tuesday.

A trip to Disneyland was in store before Ozougwu rode to Culver City to do an interview on the NFL Network.

Ozougwu planned to high-five Mickey Mouse on his first trip to Disneyland. Later in the day, he could shake the right hand that helped Sapp record 961/2 sacks during his 13-year NFL career as a defensive tackle.

Before Ozougwu made it into the amusement park, he walked around by himself. No one really noticed the 6-foot-2, 247-pounder with bulging arms. He wore a Houston Texans jersey, as if that might set off alarms that the last player selected in the NFL Draft was about to be in Mickey's house.

The jersey did not enhance his appearance. Mr. Irrelevant lived up to his nickname. Kids were more fascinated with Disneyland, which was open for business, unlike the NFL, which has locked its doors.

With no contract and the NFL in a lockout, visiting the "Happiest Place on Earth" cheered up Ozougwu.

Irrelevant Week founder and organizer Paul Salata skipped out on Disneyland. Perhaps when you're 84 like Salata, Disneyland doesn't do much for you.

But there appeared to be a photo of Salata flashing on the "s" in the Disneyland sign out in front of the park. Melanie Salata-Fitch believed the picture looked like her dad. The old man had a hat on and everything, and that goofy smile.

Ozougwu wasn't paying attention to the Salata double. He was playing patty-cake with his sisters Chinenye and Ngozi, and brothers Chuck and Joseph.

Once they grew tired of clapping hands, it was time to check out Disneyland, and for Ozougwu to change.

Ozougwu took off his jersey, because no one recognized No. 254 anyway. When has an NFL player ever worn a triple-digit number in a game?

Ozougwu put on a polo shirt, fitting in with the rest of the crowd. And Disneyland treated him like any other guest when it came to the rides.

In the past, Mr. Irrelevant used to go right to the front of the line and not wait an hour like most folks. Those days are clearly over.

Ozougwu could not even get on the two roller coasters he was looking forward to experiencing. Space Mountain and the Matterhorn Bobsleds were both out of service.

"That's a bummer," said Ozougwu, who did not have much time in the morning to spend at Disneyland because of the scheduled national interview with the NFL Network in the afternoon.

What could Mr. Irrelevant do in less than 90 minutes at one of the busiest parks in the world?

Someone suggested to Ozougwu that the Mad Tea Party was the perfect ride for him, even though he was a larger-than-life figure compared to the kids in line. Ozougwu shook his head at first, but realized he only had to stand in line for 10 minutes at best before he spun around in a giant tea cup with Chinenye, a 25-year-old nurse.

There are two other nurses in the Ozougwu family, Ngozi and his mother, Josephine. Ngozi missed one of the more thrilling rides, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, because she is four months pregnant.

Josephine sat it out as well. The break gave her and Ngozi a chance to grab a bite. Josephine also tried to figure out why the internet connection was down on her iPad.

Before she fixed the issue with the tablet, it was time to leave Disneyland. Ozougwu vowed to return later.