“I always believed the organization cared about me and valued what I bring to the team,” he said. “Being part of this season was so inspirational. Who could ever script what happened with Coach (Chuck) Pagano and Coach (Bruce) Arians taking over. It was unbelievable the things that happened and how we came together as a team.”
Harnish, a former Norwell High school standout, was part of the Colts' active roster early in the season, then released and signed to the practice squad. Other than dressing on game day, his role never changed. He practiced with the team, helping prepare fellow quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Drew Stanton and showing looks to the defense.
Harnish said he learned a lot about playing quarterback in the NFL, especially in reading defenses before the snap and making adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Calls that were made by the center in college are placed on the quarterback's shoulders in the NFL, he said.
Harnish traveled with the team, threw during the early warmups before every game and did everything except dress for the games. He could often be seen on the sidelines talking with Luck or quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen. He praised general manager Ryan Grigson, vice president of football operations Tom Telesco and the entire coaching staff for the way they treated him as a rookie.
Harnish said the season felt similar to his first year at Northern Illinois University where he was redshirted and watched on game day.
Harnish has aspirations of being a regular quarterback in the league in the future, although he hopes to compete for the backup spot to Luck next season.
“I don't think there's any special formula for how you become a starter in the NFL,” Harnish said. “Everybody has different stories. I know the areas I have to work on now. I know what my weaknesses are more so than in the past and I learned from watching Drew Stanton and Andrew Luck on how to prepare to be better.”
The Colts, like all NFL teams, will have turnover during the offseason, with players coming and going. Harnish hopes to return as part of a group of rookies who laid the foundation this season.
“We had someone speak at our final team meeting and they said how abruptly football comes to an end at the end of an NFL season,” Harnish said. “In college, it doesn't stop. You go back to second semester, winter conditioning, spring ball. The NFL stops for three and a half months. It's definitely different.”
Harnish plans to train in the offseason in Indianapolis and at his alma mater Northern Illinois.
“Never once did I feel like I wasn't part of the team,” Harnish said. “I was traveling, I was right there in the middle of the action. I had a job on game day even though it wasn't revered by most. It was still important. It was one of those opportunities, as a player, that will be invaluable to my development.”