News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 6, 2012

Mr. Irrelevant may find home with Colts

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — Chandler Harnish might be Mr. Irrelevant to most of the National Football League, but the former Norwell High School standout — who grew up in Bluffton — has a real chance to stick around the Indianapolis Colts locker room for awhile.

Yes, Harnish was the 253rd and last player selected in last week’s three-day NFL draft. Very few who are taken at that spot end up making a regular-season roster or even sticking around on a team’s practice squad.

Still, Harnish’s background — he was the Mid-American Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year at Northern Illinois last season — overall skills and size (6-2, 220) allowed the Colts to take a chance on him.

“He is relevant, because otherwise you wouldn’t burn a pick on somebody. He is very smart and mobile. He is a really good leader and you don’t get a bad word about this guy,” Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson said last week.

“He’s got ability and we are happy with the pick. He was up there on our board higher than when we took him, believe me.”

Harnish received a handful of college scholarship opportunities before finally deciding on Northern Illinois. His high school coach, former Indiana State quarterback Jeff Miller, was gently promoting his alma mater.

“I haven’t talked to [Miller since he was drafted]. He’s not one of those guys that are a real talkative. But I know he’s proud,” Harnish said Saturday. “He did a lot to help me develop as a quarterback and I owe him a lot.”

Miller and his protege are similar in size and playing style. Both utilized their mobility to move around the pocket and make plays.  

“That’s just naturally going to happen. He was my head coach. I had him for four years at Norwell. He’s a great coach and a great person. He’s really helped me develop and I’m glad to have him in my life,” he voiced.  

While in college, Harnish was compared favorably to former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in terms of their abilities to dominate games with their overall athleticism. He is, however, more adept in the passing game than the current New York Jets signal caller.  

Former Jets and Detroit quarterback Drew Stanton is expected to be the primary backup to rookie Andrew Luck but Harnish — a lifelong Colts fan — is in the mix.

“It was a very special feeling to be drafted by your hometown favorite team. The people are still very excited [in Bluffton]. It was a very special feeling to be drafted by your hometown, favorite team. The people are still very excited up there,” he said.

“I’ve always loved the Colts and I looked up to guys like Jim Harbaugh and Peyton Manning. To be a part of the team and to put on the helmet is something very special. [I want to] just to pick up as much [of the] offense as I can, and to just show these guys what kind of leader I am on and off the field. Just taking as much as you can home with you from the coaches, from different players and from Andrew [Luck]. I think at the end of those three days it will be very worthwhile.”

• Second day of mini-camp in the books — The Colts three-day rookie mini-camp wraps up after a 10:30 a.m. practice today.

Coach Chuck Pagano came away from Saturday’s two workouts feeling pretty good about what he’s seen so far.

“It was good. [We] cleaned up a lot of mistakes [Saturday] morning in the film room from [Friday]. Threw a bunch more at them [Saturday at practice]. That’s kind of our deal. Give them a ton [of information] now and then they’ll come back and figure it out later. So we’re excited where they’re at,” Pagano voiced, adding that he liked the way quarterback Andrew Luck came back and practiced.

“Like of all of [the rookies], he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s spinning too. I think he’s going a great job of picking up the terminology, the lingo. For Andrew, Chandler and the rest of the guys, having a chance to go in there and spend an hour-and-a-half, two hours and look at that the tape from [Friday]. And then to digest the new stuff from [Saturday] has been great for them.”

• Luck happy — Indianapolis’ top draft pick continues to impress in practice. Luck, though, admits that he’s not completely in tune with what offensive coordinator Bruce Arians wants to get accomplished.

“I’ve got a long way to go, but it is fun. It is a fun challenge for me. I think it is starting to hit home a little bit. Applying it is a little easier out on the practice field, but there is a long way to go,” he said after Saturday’s morning practice.

“It is great to be out there still. [I am] still learning a lot and they are still throwing a lot at us, in terms of installs and plays. But it is definitely better to get out there with a practice under your belt, a walkthrough and just knowing the snap count and the little idiosyncrasies of the offense.”

Luck said the learning the offensive playbook will remain a work in progress for quite a while.

“Having these X amount of hour work days, it is non-stop and it is a barrage of information. Yeah, you are not going to get 100 percent of it, but as much as you can get it helps a lot. I am really thankful to be here and to have that sort of information overload,” he said.

• Manning back in town — Former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was in Indianapolis Saturday night for a charity event benefiting the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent’s.

 Manning met with the media briefly before the dinner. His appearance marked his first official trip back to the city since being released by the AFC South team in early March.