NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish, a four-year starter whose Huskie tenure has included a comeback from a career-threatening injury and playing for three head coaches and four position coaches, is a candidate for the 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award for football.
Harnish is one of just 30 candidates for the award, which honors seniors who have achieved in the areas of community, classroom, character and competition.
Harnish’s achievements in all four categories illustrate the reason for his inclusion on the elite list, which includes just one other player from the Mid-American Conference (Temple’s Adrian Robinson).
On the field, Harnish, who has already been named to the preseason watch lists for the Manning Award, the Maxwell Award, the Davey O’Brien Quarterback Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year, became the first Huskie signal-caller to earn first team All Mid-American Conference honors after a record-setting season in 2010.
As a junior, Harnish led the conference and ranked 11th in the nation in passing efficiency and his 3,366 yards of total offense (2,530 passing, 836 rushing) set a school record. He already owns the NIU career record for total offense and is in the Huskies’ all-time top five for passing yards, touchdowns, attempts and completions. He was named the MAC Player of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus after leading NIU to a school-record 11 wins in 2010.
In the classroom, Harnish earned his undergraduate degree in business management from the NIU College of Business last spring with a 3.65 grade point average. The three-time Academic All-MAC selection is currently pursuing his M.B.A. from Northern Illinois.
In the community, the Bluffton, Ind. native is one of the Huskies’ team leaders.
Throughout the year, Harnish fields a constant stream of requests from schools, youth teams, churches and civic organizations. He has spoken to numerous groups and over the summer, conducted a football camp in conjunction with a local school. Harnish was named the Northern Illinois winner of the Humanitarian Award at last year’s Humanitarian Bowl and has shown his “Huskie Pride” by participating in a sweatshirt exchange with students on campus.
Thrown into the fire as a starting quarterback as a redshirt freshman, Harnish has made 31 starts for the Huskies entering his senior season. In the spring of 2010, he elected to forgo knee surgery that might have ended his football career and instead returned to the field and reclaimed his starting position by the second game.
“This is definitely a prestigious award and I take a lot of pride in representing NIU on this list. There are a lot of things you get to do as a collegiate athlete, but to have the opportunity to positively impact your community and especially young people is one of the greatest honors. To be a role model for kids and be able to give back is one of the most important things that we do.
“I realize there are a lot of great candidates for this award and I am honored to be included. Everyone on this list has been through four or five years of college football, we have all been through ups and downs and shown perseverance to make it where we are. It’s a very impressive list of people.”
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
The 30 candidates will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans who will select one finalist who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.
A year ago, Northern Illinois’ Jake Coffman was a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and eventually earned “first team” status as Huskie fans, through their dedication and voting, made him one of the top candidates for the honor.