Created:Monday, July 9, 2012 5:30 a.m.CDT

Harnish toasted, roasted at Irrelevant Week

Former Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish was in Southern California from June 30 to July 1 for Irrelevant Week, a celebration of the last player selected in the NFL draft. The Mid-American Conference MVP and Bluffton, Ind., native will report to Colts training camp July 24 in Anderson, Ind. (Daily Chronicle file photo)

When Chandler Harnish was handed the Lowsman Trophy during his trip to Irrelevant Week in Newport Beach, Calif., he said his first reaction was to laugh.

The trophy is similar to the Heisman Trophy. Sort of.

It’s a small bronze statue that depicts a football player, just like the award handed out to college football’s best player after each season. But instead of depicting a player carrying the ball and stiff-arming a defender, the Lowsman has a player fumbling the ball.

Every summer, it’s given out to the last pick in the NFL draft during Irrelevant Week, which founder Paul Salata started in 1976. This season, the former Northern Illinois quarterback earned the honor, and had his name engraved on the Lowsman Trophy.

To Harnish, everything with the trophy was in good spirit. After being in Newport Beach from June 30 to July 1, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback and 253rd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft is having the trophy shipped to his hometown of Bluffton, Ind., where it will sit with all his other awards.

“Some people were laughing because obviously they see the guy fumbling the ball,” Harnish said. “It was all in good fun.”

Salata, who played college football at USC and went on to play two years in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, founded Irrelevant Week as a celebration of the underdog. All the money raised throughout the event goes to charity.

“The main thing I get out of it is that this gives the 253rd draft choice an equal standing with the first guy,” Salata said, “and why not?”

The Lowsman Trophy is only one part of the celebration of the final pick in each year’s NFL draft.

“We joke around a lot. The Heisman has [74] recipients,” Salata said. “We’ve only had 37, it’s more rare.”

Harnish received the trophy at a banquet with about 400 people. He also had the chance to get some advice from former NFL quarterbacks Vince Ferragamo (Rams starting quarterback in Super Bowl XIV), Jim Hardy and Paul McDonald.

They also had the chance to roast the 253rd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, joking about his first name and calling him a country kid because of the fact he’s from the Midwest.

“They kind of attacked every angle they could,” Harnish said.

When he wasn’t getting made fun of, Harnish had the chance to go to Disneyland and be part of a boat parade in Newport Harbor.

The 2011 Mid-American Conference MVP will report to Colts training camp July 24 in Anderson, Ind. He’s one of two quarterbacks on the roster, with the other being six-year veteran Drew Stanton. No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck hasn’t yet signed.

With training camp less than a month away, Harnish was glad to get away from football for a few days.

“It’s always nice whenever you’ve been going so hard for so long to get away for a week or so,” Harnish said. “It was definitely good to be there, especially with my family.”

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