The Herald Bulletin

June 26, 2012

George Bremer: Irrelevance in eye of beholder


— Chandler Harnish was so excited about being drafted by his favorite NFL team in April, he didn’t have time to drink in the fact he’d just joined a fairly exclusive fraternity.

The former Northern Illinois star was the 253rd and final player selected in the seven-round draft, and that earned him entry into the “Mr. Irrelevant” Club.

“To be honest, I don’t know much,” Harnish told the media when asked about the honor on draft day. “I was told there was a parade, but other than that I don’t know much. I’m excited to find out.”

Harnish will learn all he needs to know during “Irrelevant Week” in Newport Beach, Calif., culminating with a party in his honor on July 3 at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel.

Mr. Irrelevant is the brainchild of former NFL player Paul Salata, and Harnish is the 37th man to earn the title.

And some of the previous winners actually have proven to be quite relevant.

Bill Kenney, who earned the award as the second-to-last player taken in 1978 after the final selection suffered an injury and did not report to camp, became a Pro Bowler in 1983 with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Special-teamer Marty Moore won a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots in 2001, and St. Louis linebacker David Vobora and Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop are current starters in the NFL.

The Colts even had their own brief brush with Mr. Irrelevant success with fullback Jim Finn — who was taken by the Chicago Bears in 1999, played in Indianapolis from 2000-02 and became a starter with the New York Giants between 2003-06.

But Indianapolis never had drafted Mr. Irrelevant before Harnish.

The Colts did hold the final pick in the draft three times before Salata established the award in 1976, and Salata himself played one season for the Baltimore Colts in 1950.

He caught 45 passes over the season’s final seven games from Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle, but the Colts finished 1-11.

“We had some good players,” Salata said in a press release. “Tittle and (offensive lineman) Art Donovan are in the Hall of Fame, but the franchise folded at the end of the season.”

The Colts returned to the NFL in 1953 and selected Harnish nearly 60 years later.

Harnish grew up a Colts fan in Bluffton and said his family still supports the team.

He established his football credentials at Northern Illinois, where he compiled 4,043 yards of total offense as a run-pass threat and led the Huskies to an 11-3 record during his senior year.

Harnish is behind fellow rookie Andrew Luck and veteran Drew Stanton on the Colts’ depth chart, but it’s unlikely any player on the roster is happier to be in Indianapolis.

“I’ve always loved the Colts, and I looked up to guys like Jim Harbaugh and Peyton Manning,” Harnish said after his first pro practice in May. “To be a part of the team and to put on the helmet is something very special.”

And by next week, thanks to Salata and his eccentric award, Harnish already will have made a name for himself.

Hard to see anything irrelevant in that.