DETROIT – Feel free to disrespect Chandler Harnish. He's endured slights since he scrambled around the football fields of Ossian, and he continues to do so today at Northern Illinois. He's used to it and he revels in it.
“I'd rather come through as an underdog and surprise some teams,” Harnish said from Ford Field in Detroit at the Mid-American Conference football media day. “You get more satisfaction from that.”
There are a number of Midwest teams that are “surprised” by Harnish, namely most of them. The former Norwell standout has evolved from a lightly recruited quarterback, from what he refers to as a “mid-major high school,” to one of the best college quarterbacks in the country.
“You have to work everyday and sometimes twice each day,” Harnish said. “I had a dream. When you have a dream, you have to go for it.”
Harnish's play over the past three seasons has been mostly a dream for the Huskies coaching staff, but a nightmare for opponents. He's battled through a pair of injuries and become the most productive offensive player (7,332 yards) in Northern Illinois history. Having that title would give most players a sense of comfort. That's not the case with Harnish.
“If you're not getting better then you're getting worse,” he said. “Last year was a completely different season.”
It may have been a “different season,” but the Huskies faithful would like to see similar results. Northern Illinois was perfect in MAC play (8-0) and finished 11-3. Harnish ran for 836 yards and threw for 2,530 while accounting for 53 (13 rushing) touchdowns.
“We did a lot of good things last year,” Harnish said. “But this year's team has a different dynamic.”
That “dynamic” is new to coach Dave Doeren, who has been assistant at Wisconsin for the past five seasons. Harnish is anxious to unleash Doeren's no-huddle offense on opponents.
“We have so many explosive players on offense, why not run more plays?” Harnish asked. “To me it's a great philosophy.”
The Huskies averaged about 65 plays per game last season, one in which Harnish was named first team All-MAC.
This season he should be even more of a threat, as he'll be taking the snap nearly 90 times each Saturday.
When you are the quarterback on the best team in the conference, you tend to attract attention. In Harnish's case, he's a pre-season candidate for the Walter Camp (best college football player), Maxwell (outstanding college football player) and Davey O'Brien Awards (top quarterback). But his goal for his final season at Northern Illinois is crystal clear.
“Win a MAC championship and nothing else,” Harnish said emphatically. “If you win a MAC championship, then the personal stuff will follow.”