BLUFFTON – Indianapolis Colts rookie Chandler Harnish minces no words summing up his status as he fights for an NFL job.
“You go from being 'The Man' on campus to being a nobody, trying to make a name for yourself,” Harnish told a roomful of friendly faces at the Norwell Football Club Banquet on Wednesday at Timber Ridge Golf Club.
Harnish is more well-known than the average rookie “nobody,” of course. Taken with the 253rd and last pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, he became “Mr. Irrelevant,” a title that came with parties, yachting and a “Lowsman Trophy” award in Newport Beach, Calif.
He's also another NFL dreamer looking for his break, one that is going to be on the line in a little over two weeks when the Colts training camp opens in Anderson. Some odds are stacked against him, including the fact he's behind No.1 pick Andrew Luck and veteran backup Drew Stanton in the quarterback pecking order.
“Chandler will give it his best shot,” Norwell coach Jeff Miller said. “He's a smart kid. He's in great shape. He works hard. If anybody can do it, he can.”
Some assets are with Harnish, such as the fact he's excelled and proved people wrong at every level, from Norwell to Northern Illinois University to the NFL Combine. And he knows he has to make the most of his limited chances with the Colts.
Answering questions from friends and fans, he sounded like the quarterback he is – extroverted, intelligent, forthcoming and aware of his surroundings.
He talked about how he grew up a Colts fan and teammates such as Reggie Wayne are on posters in his family's home. He mentioned he hasn't yet had a chance to talk with Dwight Freeney, and he doesn't mind the fact quarterbacks don't get hit in practice. Asked for his best moment so far, he knew it exactly:
“Taking the team down the field on the two-minute drill in practice,” he said. “I was kind of fighting for the third-string quarterback spot when the third-string quarterback threw an interception right away in the two-minute drill, so they started over.
“They brought me in and I took the team right down the field and scored. I thought I kind of built a little respect for myself there.”
Who caught the pass?
“Austin Collie. It was pretty cool to go out there with the 1s (first unit). It happens fast. It's a lot faster, but you get used to it. That was a good day.”
Other thoughts Harnish shared:
* The playbook is a work in progress. “Our offensive coordinator (Bruce Arians), formerly with the Pittsburgh Steelers, makes (the playbook) up as he goes. He puts in new plays and we put them in the books ourselves. The playbook is growing and growing and growing. And that's a good thing, because you grow with it. They don't hand you a big dictionary and say learn it.”
* He had no idea the Colts would draft him. “I had given up on (thinking) I was going to be drafted when the 317 area code came up on my phone. …It went from my worst day ever to my best.”
* Only once has he taken off running during a play in practice. “I was scrambling one day and running toward the middle of the field, and I acted like was going to lower my shoulder. One of the safeties said, 'Boy, you'll get beat up in this league if you do that.' I think I'll remember that and just slide.”
* The Colts' veterans are class acts. “They treat you awesome. The first time I walked into the facility, Adam Vinatieri, who's probably the best kicker to ever play the game, comes up and shakes my hand and introduces himself. That happened time after time.”
* He appreciates Luck's skills. “I like watching Andrew Luck play, but sometimes I wish I was out there. He's a great player. He anticipates pretty well. He's NFL ready. He's an impressive guy that I can definitely learn from as I continue to develop.”
* Harnish has worn jersey No.12 most of his life, but that's Luck's number now. “No.8 was given to me. I wasn't about to go in and say, 'I want this and I want that. 'Just give me what you can.' No.8 is fine. I was going to choose 7, it was open, but 8 is cool with me. Any number is good, as long as it's not 18.”