Better late than never: Harnish drafted as Mr. Irrelevant


By Jimmy Johnson

It was an unusual homecoming in Bluffton, Ind. for Chandler Harnish this weekend.

The former NIU quarterback didn’t head home for a family party, or to see an old friend.

It was the NFL Draft, and Harnish wanted to spend this important moment in his life with the people closest to him. He golfed during the day Saturday, spent time with his family, all in an attempt to keep his potential draft status off his mind.

As the seventh and final round of the draft came to a close Saturday, Harnish was frustrated.

“At the end of the draft I lost all hope,” Harnish said. “I was starting to expect to be a free agent.”

Yet with his hometown Indianapolis Colts on the board with the final and 253rd pick, his feeling of defeat changed with a phone call.

“With two minutes to go in the draft, they asked me if I wanted to be an Indianapolis Colt, and I said ‘Heck yes.’ It was a crazy experience, but it was so special because I got to spend it with some of the closest people in my life,” Harnish said in an phone interview with the Northern Star.

Harnish earned the title of “Mr. Irrelevant” which is given to the last player taken in the draft.

The 2012 Vern Smith Leadership Award recipient is the first NIU player to be drafted since former Huskie linebacker Larry English was picked 16th overall by the San Diego Chargers in 2009.

“I’ve always loved the Colts,” Harnish said. “It just makes it that much more special. I would have never thought that’s where I would have ended up, but, man, am I happy.”

The Colts ended up owning the bookend picks of the draft, as they took Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck first overall. Harnish will likely compete for the potential backup position behind Luck.

“It’s going to be great,” Harnish said. “I can’t wait to introduce myself to Andrew and the team, and just begin to dig into the playbook. I’m going there for a purpose. I’m going there to help the team win games and be a leader on and off the field as a quarterback.”

Harnish said he wasn’t sure what the additional perks of being Mr. Irrelevant will be, but according to a Yahoo! Sports article, he’ll be the guest of honor during Irrelevant Week in Orange County, Calif. Harnish will also receive an invite to be the grand marshal of the parade, as well as getting a chance to go sailing with the Balboa Yacht Club and a visit to Disneyland.

“It will be a good little vacation,” Harnish said. “I’ve never been to California, so that will be my good opening trip to the west coast.”

There’s even more intrigue to Harnish’s path to the NFL. Harnish’s agent past represented another former Mr. Irrelevant in Matt Elliott, who was taken 336th overall to the Washington Redskins in the 1992 NFL Draft.

“I think my agent is going to give me his number to connect with him and talk what to expect and different things,” Harnish said.

Once the draft concluded, the second part of it started with undrafted players getting the chance to sign with teams. As of Sunday, several other Huskies were signed. Harnish’s longtime center Scott Wedige signed with the Arizona Cardinals. One of Harnish’s favorite targets in Nathan Palmer was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers. Defensively, linebacker Pat Schiller will go to camp with the Atlanta Falcons.

“I think it goes to show how talented our team was really this year,” Harnish said. “I still think four or five guys that have an opportunity to make a squad.”