Created:Thursday, April 26, 2012 5:30 a.m.CDT
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Harnish likes his chances

By STEVE NITZ - snitz@shawmedia.com
Chandler Harnish fires off a pass to Willie Clark. The two former Northern Illinois players were showing their talents to NFL scouts on March 9 at Huskie Stadium during NIU's Pro Day. (Kyle Bursaw — kbursaw@shawmedia.com)

DeKALB — When the NFL draft begins this evening, the Indianapolis Colts will select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick.

With the second selection, the Washington Redskins are expected to take another quarterback, Heisman Trophy-winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor. Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill is projected by many outlets to be among the top 10 picks.

As the draft comes to a close Saturday afternoon, quarterbacks such as Oregon’s Darron Thomas, Houston’s Case Keenum, Southern Miss’ Austin Davis and Boise State’s Kellen Moore will be waiting to hear their name called as teams look for prospects.

One of the quarterbacks in that group is Northern Illinois’ Chandler Harnish, the Huskies’ four-year starter and 2011 Mid-American Conference MVP. Harnish said he’s heard that he could go anywhere from the fourth round to the seventh round.

“As the time’s grown closer, I’ve become more and more excited,” Harnish said. “I don’t know if anxious is the right word, but definitely eager.”

Harnish has had personal workouts with Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, San Francisco and Seattle. He said the teams that have shown the most interest in him are Buffalo, Seattle and Tampa Bay.

“You keep [in] constant contact. They call you randomly out of the blue, just want to know how you’re doing,” Harnish said of his talks with the various organizations. “They just want to keep up with you and let you know that you’re still high on [their] list and that they’re interested.”

As soon as the Huskies’ season ended after their win in January’s GoDaddy.com Bowl, Harnish started his journey toward the draft, playing in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., and working out at the NFL combine. He also worked out with two personal coaches – former NFL quarterbacks Jeff Christensen and Turk Schonert.

Harnish thinks he’s increased his stock, and expects to be one of the 253 players selected during the weekend, even though there’s still a chance he could wind up as an undrafted free agent.

“I’m really, really confident that I think I’ll get drafted,” he said. “I’m also very prepared that it may not happen. At the end of the day, I just want an opportunity to make a team and compete for a position.”

Of all the things Harnish did during the offseason, one stands out to his agent, Cliff Brady, who also represents Scott Wedige, NIU’s former center who hopes to be picked in the later rounds.

Brady said Harnish’s decision to work as a designated thrower at the NFL combine in February will pay dividends.

By doing that, Harnish was in Indianapolis for nearly a week throwing to the receivers, tight ends and running backs, showing off his arm.

Brady said he ran the idea past 14 NFL general managers at the East-West Shrine Game, and all of them said having Harnish work as a designated thrower was a good idea.

“I wouldn’t doubt that four or five years from now, being that thrower is going to be that thing to do,” Brady said. “We may have started it here.”

Having those extra opportunities at the combine is one reason both Brady and Harnish said the Bluffton, Ind., native’s draft stock has improved since NIU’s season ended.

“That was a big question mark, his accuracy and his arm strength,” Brady said. “I think he answered those questions real well at the combine and Shrine Game, [and] also his pro day and his private workouts.”

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