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Harnish talks about Colts, being Mr. Irrelevant

Chandler Harnish, the rookie Colts quarterback from Norwell, makes a local appearance to sign autographs. He discusses his time with the rebuilding Colts, excitement about his prospects and being "Mr. Irrelevant," the last man taken in the NFL draft.

Colts rookie QB signs autographs on visit to city

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Colts quarterback Chandler Harnish signs a helmet for Skylar Sikes, 11. He was joined on the Colts Tailgate Tour by rookie Josh Chapman, center.

Normally, when Chandler Harnish comes back to his old stomping grounds of northeast Indiana, it requires a 105-minute drive.

“Today, it was a 27-minute flight. That’s a cool little perk of the business,” Harnish, the Norwell graduate and rookie quarterback with the Colts, said Monday at the Meijer on Illinois Road.

He was in Fort Wayne as part of the Colts’ Tailgate Tour, signing autographs for, and mingling with, fans of the blue and white.

It was a welcome respite from the hard work he has been putting in with the Colts since being taken in the seventh round of the April draft, out of Northern Illinois.

Even though Indianapolis took another quarterback, Andrew Luck of Stanford, with the top pick in the draft, Harnish has embraced the opportunity to compete with a celebrated prospect and try to make the roster of the rebuilding Colts.

“Pressure is something that as a player you can control,” Harnish said. “Some days you go out there and if you feel pressure, it’s because you’re not prepared. Yeah, I’ve felt pressure a couple days (with the Colts) because I didn’t think I was mentally focused. But once I really got to understand the playbook and got in the film room and started to learn from the other quarterbacks, that pressure left and it becomes an exciting feeling.”

There is almost an entirely new coaching staff, led by head coach Chuck Pagano, a new 3-4 defensive scheme and many new players, including quarterback Drew Stanton.

“It’s been a real learning process,” said rookie nose tackle Josh Chapman, a fifth-round pick out of Alabama. “You have to watch the veterans do the plays and learn from their mistakes and take it all in.”

Harnish, 23, said he has put an incredible amount of work into learning the playbook, requisite for any quarterback.

“It’s been (learning) leaps and bounds, understanding the playbook and understanding the nuances of what (offensive coordinator) Bruce Arians wants to do,” Harnish said. “And then just technically working with my quarterbacks coach, Clyde Christensen, there have been a lot of long hours.”

He will get a break Monday through Wednesday at Newport Beach, Calif., as he’s the focal figure at Mr. Irrelevant Week, which honors the last person taken in the NFL draft.

He will go to Disneyland, attend a beach party, play golf, get roasted by players and celebrities and even be in a parade, all in support of charities. Mr. Irrelevant Week was founded in 1976.

“The name ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ kind of puts a negative spin on it at times,” Harnish said of his draft position, “but for me, it’s going to be a great experience. … There are not many opportunities in your lifetime you get to experience something like this.”