Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish continues to reap the rewards of a stellar NIU career and will represent his alma mater at two awards banquets this February, while preparing for the biggest “job interview” of his career.
Harnish’s most important appearance this February will come February 22-28 in Indianapolis at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.
Harnish, who led Northern Illinois to its first Mid-American Conference football title in 28 years in 2011 and broke 30 NIU records in four seasons as the Huskies’ starting quarterback, is one of seven MAC players and one of 19 quarterbacks on the combine’s final invitation list, released Tuesday.
At the combine, top executives, coaching staffs, player personnel departments and medical personnel from all 32 NFL teams will be on hand to evaluate the nation’s top college football players eligible for the upcoming NFL Draft.
This intense, four-day job interview is open to approximately 300 invited players.
“Getting invited to the combine is very exciting,” Harnish said.
“I’m proud to represent myself, my family and NIU and look forward to going there, putting my skills forward and seeing what I can do. At the same time, it is a job interview and as anyone who has ever been through that experience knows, there is a lot of stress and pressure. As it gets closer, the more I’ve done, including the experience at the Shrine Game, talking to scouts, I feel more prepared every day and the pressure doesn’t bother me.”
Harnish said the lessons learned and mentality developed during his time at Northern Illinois have prepared him for the next few months.
“At NIU, we are the underdogs, we don’t get a lot of respect nationally, so that’s the position I am in right now,” he said. “Not a lot of people think I can be a high draft pick and some are questioning if I can even be chosen. What I learned at NIU is it takes hard work every day. You have to have a chip on your shoulder to go out every day and prove critics wrong and at the end of the day it’s that much sweeter when you do.”
After leading NIU to its second consecutive bowl victory (38-20 over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl) to close out his collegiate career on a nine-game winning streak, Harnish was the starting quarterback for the West team in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Jan. 21. He ran for a touchdown and was selected as the team captain for that game.
His leadership qualities on the field, in the classroom, and in the community, and his ability to come back from adversity while inspiring the same values in his team, earned Harnish the 2011 Male Athlete of the Year Award, and second consecutive MAC Player of the Year Award, from the Columbus Touchdown Club.
He will be presented with the awards this Saturday, Feb. 11, during the 57th Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards Banquet at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion in Columbus. Harnish will join other award winners at the event, including 2011 standouts Kellen Moore (Boise State), Case Keenum (Houston), Montee Ball (Wisconsin), David Amerson (N.C. State) and Kansas State Head Coach Bill Snyder. A complete list of the 2011 award winners is available online at www.tdccolumbus.com.
Harnish is the second Northern Illinois player to earn the Touchdown Club of Columbus’ Male Athlete of the Year Award as NIU’s Jake Coffman was honored by the organization following the 2009 season.
“The Touchdown Club of Columbus does a great job every year of recognizing the best players, colleges and coaches in the country for what they do on and off the field,” Harnish said. “My family is all going to be there and it’s going to be be a great event to celebrate a great season, and the exciting career that I had at NIU. I can’t wait for the weekend, the Touchdown Club does all the things for the right reason and that makes it so much fun to be there.”
On Monday, Feb. 20, Harnish will receive the Mental Toughness Award from the National Football Foundation (NFF) Chicago Metro Chapter at the NFF Chicago Awards Ceremony at Halas Hall. Harnish and Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa will share the award at the event, which will also honor Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, the NAIA National Champion St. Xavier University Football Team and the 2011 Fred Mitchell Award Winner.
“I’m excited to go to Halas Hall for the NFF Chicago event and honored to win the Mental Toughness Award,” Harnish said. “I know there are going to be a lot of great people there and once again I will proudly represent the school and hopefully garner more respect for Northern Illinois and for the MAC. Like the Touchdown Club, the NFF does a great job of supporting the game of football for all the right reasons.”
Harnish was named an honorable mention All-American by SI.com after a record-setting 2011 campaign and stellar four-year career as the Huskies’ starting quarterback. A native of Bluffton, Ind., he earned Most Valuable Player honors in the Huskies’ GoDaddy.com Bowl victory after throwing for 274 yards on 18-of-36 passing with two touchdowns.
That performance capped a season that saw Harnish throw for 3,216 yards and 28 touchdowns while completing 237-of-384 passes (61.7 percent), and rush for a team-leading 1,379 yards on 194 carries with 11 touchdowns. He averaged 7.1 yards per carry and was the top rushing quarterback in the country this season.
Harnish’s 4,595 yards of total offense was the fourth-highest total in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2011 and he is one of only four FBS quarterbacks all-time to throw for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 in a single season, with his rushing total higher than any other signal-caller to accomplish the feat.
Harnish won the Vern Smith Leadership Award as the Mid-American Conference’s Most Valuable Player and was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year. A semifinalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Trophy, he was one of 16 individuals across all divisions of college football to be named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete, earning an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship. He graduated from NIU with a 3.65 grade point average in business management in May 2011.
“It’s definitely an exciting time in my life,” he said. “It is stressful at times, but you have to take it one day at a time and improve every day in whatever you do. Every day, I am looking for personal improvement – whether that’s my 40 time or my lift or working on throws with my quarterback coach – and keeping the big picture in mind. I’m having the time of my life, having the chance to meet a lot of great people and train with great athletes. It’s so much fun.”