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For Norwell graduate and former Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish, wearing the dubious title of Mr. Irrelevant as the last selection in the NFL draft is “a good problem to have.”

‘Mr. Irrelevant’ becomes ‘Mr. Cool’ as media blitz

All Chandler Harnish wanted was an opportunity to make a name for himself in the NFL; and his name was good enough.

But then came Saturday inside Radio City Music Hall in New York.

As the 253rd and final pick of the 2012 NFL draft – a seventh-round selection by the Indianapolis Colts – Harnish was suddenly handed the title of Mr. Irrelevant, the dubious name given annually to the last pick of the draft.

Last year it was Cheta Ozougwu, a defensive end out of Rice picked by the Houston Texans. The year before that it was Tim Toone, a wide receiver from Weber State drafted by Detroit.

And now it’s Harnish, who, for being at the end of the line, has been the recent center of attention.

“It has been a little overwhelming,” said Harnish, the former Norwell quarterback who went on to set 30 career offensive records at Northern Illinois and was the Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year. “I’ve been getting a ton of phone calls, and I’ve done a ton of radio shows and interviews, but at the same time it’s a good problem to have. I’d rather be getting a lot of phone calls than none at all, because if I didn’t get any then I probably didn’t succeed in my goal of getting drafted.

“It can be overwhelming, but sometimes you have to put your phone to the side and just relax and smell the roses and enjoy it. These opportunities don’t come around too often.”

So there you have it: Mr. Irrelevant is also Mr. Cool as he takes his new-found notoriety in stride.

What he isn’t doing is taking it seriously.

“It could be a distraction if you let it be a distraction, but for me, not at all,” said Harnish, who, after spending time at home has returned to Northern Illinois. “I’ve just been thinking football. (Tuesday), I went out on the field, threw routes to some wide receivers. I did some conditioning. I went out in the weight room and lifted. I went back to my normal schedule.

“If you think of it as a bad thing, it could be a distraction, but I just take it in stride. I think it’s cool. I’ll get a free vacation out of it and get to do a lot of different things. I’m actually happy. By no means is it a distraction to me.”

But his intensity will be tested during Mr. Irrelevant Week, which runs from June 24 to 28.

Founded by Paul Salata, a former NFL player and Hollywood actor who makes the Mr. Irrelevant announcement at every NFL draft, including Saturday, there is an extended celebration in Newport Beach, Calif.

There will be a parade. There will be a cookout. There will be a regatta, with Harnish at a boat’s helm. There will be a golf tournament. There will be a banquet during which Harnish will be presented with the Lowsman Trophy, which is similar to the Heisman Trophy, except that the statue is fumbling the ball rather than having it tucked in his arm.

“I told him it’s going to be one of the most fun weeks he’ll have in his life,” said Cliff Brady, Harnish’s agent.

Brady should know, since Harnish is the second Mr. Irrelevant he has represented. His first was Matt Elliott, a center from the University of Michigan who was drafted by Washington in 1992 and went on to play for the Redskins and Carolina Panthers.

Before Mr. Irrelevant is celebrated in June, Harnish will attend the Colts’ rookie minicamp Friday through Sunday, where he will compete with the draft’s No. 1 pick, Andrew Luck, for a quarterback job. “To be honest, I’m not thinking about it,” he said of the celebration that awaits him. “I’m thinking about football and making an NFL team and doing what I have to do to be a member of the team. To me, it’s just icing on the cake.”

And yes, there will be cake.

stwarden@jg.net

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