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 didnt 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, hell 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, its OK – hes an Indiana native.
Im happy to be wanted by a team and Im happy to be an Indianapolis Colt because thats 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 weekends rookie mini-camp.
And for a guy who grew up playing at Norwell in Ossian, this was no joke, either.
Its complete elation. Its surreal, Harnish said. Im so happy Im a Colt. Im 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 leagues MVP. He led the Huskies to the league title and their fourth straight bowl game in 2011.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Harnish 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 touchdowns, 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 drafts end.
It is relevant because otherwise you wouldnt burn a pick on somebody, new general manager Ryan Grigson said. This person we took had tremendous success in the Mid-American Conference. Hes got ability, and he was higher on our board than where we took him.
Harnish couldnt 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 wed be looking into free agency.
Also on Saturday, the Colts took 316-pound defensive tackle Josh Chapman with the days first pick, at the top of the fifth round, then went back to offense.
They spent their second fifth-round draft pick on Vick Ballard, a 1,000-yard rusher from Mississippi State.
Indianapolis then took Ohio University receiver LaVon Brazill in the sixth round and 342-pound offensive lineman Justin Anderson from Georgia in the seventh.
The defense wound up with only two additions: Chapman, the fifth-round pick from national champion Alabama, and 250-pound defensive end Tim Fugger, a seventh-round choice from Vanderbilt.
That wasnt exactly what new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and new coach Chuck Pagano had hoped for when the draft began. Heck, they didnt even get a cornerback to improve one of the worst pass defenses in league history.
We had a guy that we coveted and we felt really, really good about and he fell off the board, right before we picked, Pagano said when asked about the lack of a cornerback. Thats how the draft is. So you have to be armed and ready and Ryan and the rest of the guys were ready to go. He wasnt the only guy. But thats the way drafts go.