BLUFFTON – Here is the mans reality now, draped over the third hanger of four at the front of the room. The first two hangers bear Chandler Harnishs high school jerseys, one navy and one white. Then theres a video screen, where a montage of photos trace his spangled path from Norwell to the NFL. And then
And then, there it is: A plain blue jersey with Harnish in white lettering across the shoulders, and the number 253 beneath.
This is Chandler Harnishs fame now, his legacy to either vanquish or be vanquished by. That number, 253, was his draft number, see. It was also the final number called in the 2012 NFL draft.
And so, voila: Suddenly Harnish goes from Player of the Year in the Mid-American Conference to, um, Mr. Irrelevant, aka the last player taken in the draft.
You make of that sort of thing what you can, and Harnish has made the most of it, reveling with his customary good nature in Mr. Irrelevant Week out in Orange County, Calif. He and his family got to play golf and hang out on a yacht and stay in a nice hotel. And, yes, they went to Disneyland.
They treated me like a king, and they treated my family like a king, he said Thursday at Timber Ridge Golf Club, where he was the featured speaker at the Norwell Football Club Banquet.
And now its time to hang it up with his Norwell jerseys and the 253 jersey and his Northern Illinois jersey. Time to park it out there on the table in the vestibule crowded with helmets and photos and trophies, all the rich rewards of a rich athletic life.
Up on the screen, meanwhile, a photo of Harnish flinging the ball dissolves into one of him grinning from beneath a mud-smeared helmet, some happy moment from some half-remembered Friday night.
Its all a long way from where he is now, on the cusp of his first NFL training camp.
I would say its a little surreal, Harnish says. At the same time, Ive always been pretty realistic. Ive always been able to put those things aside and just go to work.
But at the same time, it was pretty cool to see pictures of me with the (Colts) helmet on taking reps during (rookie mini camp), he goes on. Seeing myself on NFL Live – kind of behind Andrew (Luck), but, still. Just to see that is something Ill cherish for a very long time.
The first of more than a few things, he hopes. With training camp less than a month away, he says hes focused and ready, or at least as ready as he can be. Hes got the playbook down, he thinks. And he and Luck have bonded, regularly texting each other after spending virtually every minute together through most of June.
Probably the only thing different is hes getting paid a lot more money, Harnish said, joking. But you dont know that when you talk to him. Hes just a normal guy.
Harnish, too, although hes hoping to be much more than just normal when he pulls on the pads and helmet come training camp. The time for irrelevance, for Mr. Irrelevant, is gone now; from here on out, relevance is the goal and dispensability the enemy.
I definitely feel like Im prepared, he says. But I think the only real way for me to learn is to get out and take reps and a lot of times fail. You learn from your failures, because you learn how to correct those for the future.
Crossing your fingers, always, that therell be a future.