Pro football | NFL draft

Colts make Harnish final choice of 2012 draft

2012-04-28T19:45:00Z 2012-04-29T02:50:41Z Colts make Harnish final choice of 2012 draftThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 28, 2012 7:45 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Mr. Irrelevant suddenly has a whole new meaning for Chandler Harnish.

The Northern Illinois quarterback who was taken with the 253rd and final pick of the draft Saturday didn't just get a title and a vacation. He got a chance to play for his favorite NFL team and potentially to be a backup for Andrew Luck.

First, he'll make the trip to Disneyland, appear in the Irrelevant Week parade in Newport Beach, Calif., and put his Colts license plate back on his car. Hey, it's OK -- he's an Indiana native.

"I'm happy to be wanted by a team and I'm happy to be an Indianapolis Colt because that's been my favorite team all the way through," he told local reporters on a conference call shortly after the selection was announced.

For the Colts and the NFL, it was a historic first.

Indianapolis opened the draft by taking Luck, the Stanford quarterback, with the No. 1 overall selection and ended the draft by taking another quarterback in Harnish. It was the first time since 1967 that a non-expansion team had the first and last picks in the draft and only the third time in league history.

Neither of the previous teams, Houston in 2002 and Philadelphia in 1949, chose a quarterback with both picks.

Paul Salada, who founded Irrelevant Week in 1976, made the announcement and held up a blue-and-white Colts jersey with No. 253 on it.

One thing is already certain: Unlike Luck, who was handed a No. 12 jersey with his name stitched on the back, Harnish will not wear No. 253 when he reports to next weekend's rookie mini-camp.

And for a guy who grew up playing at Norwell High School in northeastern Indiana, this was no joke, either.

"It's complete elation. It's surreal," Harnish said. "I'm so happy I'm a Colt. I'm really, just speechless."

Harnish set 30 school records at Northern Illinois, was a two-time all-Mid-American Conference selection, a three-time academic all-league choice and was chosen as the league's MVP. He led the Huskies to the league title and their fourth straight bowl game in 2011.

He finished his career with 8,944 yards passing, completed 61.9 percent of his passes with 68 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. He also ran for 2,238 yards and 24 TDs and his 11,927 yards in total offense rank third all-time in league history.

That was enough to persuade the Colts to take him, even at draft's end.

"It is relevant because otherwise you wouldn't burn a pick on somebody," new general manager Ryan Grigson said. "This person we took had tremendous success in the Mid-American Conference. He's got ability, and he was higher on our board than where we took him."

Plus, the Colts need him.

Until Thursday night, the only quarterbacks on Indy's roster were career backup Drew Stanton, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the New York Jets, and Trevor Vittatoe, with one year of pro experience. Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne couldn't even remember his name and simply chose to call him "V."

The selection of Luck altered the depth chart, and the selection of Harnish gives the Colts another young quarterback to groom as a backup to Luck.

Harnish, who is 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, couldn't have asked for a better situation.

"I was right there at the end, still hoping for the best and preparing for the worst," he said. "My agent and I were thinking we'd be looking into free agency.

"It looks like I have a little vacation and they tell me I have a parade," he added. "I don't know much else about what happens, but I'm excited to find out."

Harnish and the Colts weren't the only winner.

Team owner Jim Irsay also ran a contest on Twitter, offering $5,000 to the person who chose the name of the last of Indy's 10 selections this weekend. Shortly after the draft, Irsay tweeted that the winner was Billy Cardwell from Kokomo, Ind.

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