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Mr. Irrelevant won't let spotlight define him

4/30/2012
Chandler Harnish plans to stay humble despite the overwhelming fame of being Mr. Irrelevant. AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Chris Young

Sure, Andrew Luck is poised to draw a bigger paycheck and a better spot on the Indianapolis Colts’ depth chart than the newly minted Mr. Irrelevant, Chandler Harnish.

But even though Luck was selected No. 1 overall out of Stanford in this year's NFL draft, and Harnish, out of Northern Illinois, was identified with the 253rd and final pick, Harnish has something Luck doesn’t – an iPhone.

Luck still uses a flip phone to handle the many calls and text messages he receives every day, something Harnish says he’s determined to change.

“I think I'm definitely gonna push for him to get an iPhone,” Harnish said with a laugh. “I think it'll definitely help him to get more organized and up-to-date for sure."

Just like Luck, Harnish played quarterback in college and wore No 12.

When Luck took the stage Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall, he was handed a Colts jersey with his name and Harnish’s number on the back. On Saturday, when Harnish’s pick was announced, a Colts jersey bearing No. 253 was held aloft by the founder of Irrelevant Week, former NFL player Paul Salata.

Is there any chance he’s going to try to talk Luck out of No. 12?

“He can have the number; that’s OK with me,” Harnish said. “I haven’t even decided [what number I’m going to wear] yet, and I don’t know if they’ll let me choose. I can all but guarantee that it won’t be No. 12.”

Many NFL draft picks watched the draft at parties thrown by friends and family as they anxiously waited to hear their names called on national television, but Harnish took a different approach.

“[I] went out to a golf course and golfed around for a bit,” he said. “I started off very well, but I ended up a little rough because my name wasn’t being called in the draft. I was getting a little worried and my golf game suffered because of it.”

That call came not long after Harnish got off the course and back to his cousin’s home in their hometown of Bluffton, Ind.

“As my college career progressed and I started having a bit of success, I realized I’d have a chance to play in the NFL, but I never thought I’d have a chance to play [after] Peyton [Manning],” Harnish said.

So what are the perks to being Mr. Irrelevant? Besides, you know, getting to tell everyone you were an NFL draft pick?

Harnish gets a trip to Disneyland and a parade thrown in his honor. He’ll also likely never have to wait in line at any restaurant ever again ... in his hometown.

“There aren’t too many lines in Bluffton, but I’m still a humble guy. I’ll wait in line if I have to,” Harnish said.

As a bonus, at least one pizza joint plans to honor him with a pizza of the month.

“We’re getting ready to plan our summer [pizza of the month selections], and we’d imagine he’s going to be on there,” said Ty Walton, owner of Tyeger’s Pizza in Bluffton. “My wife’s a recipe specialist. We’ll try to figure out what his favorites are and try to make the Harnish favorite.”

Harnish passed for nearly 9,000 yards in four seasons at NIU, throwing for 68 touchdowns and just 26 interceptions.

When Colts general manager Ryan Grigson first called Saturday, Harnish's agent, Cliff Brady, wanted to send the team a message that his client was determined to be relevant.

“My agent told him we have some other opportunities lined up, and if you want him, you have to draft him,” Harnish said. “If the Colts didn’t feel that I was going to go somewhere else, they wouldn’t have drafted me, so they needed to feel that I was wanted elsewhere.”