Chandler Harnish Interview:
First of all Chandler, thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know it’s been a busy week for you.
CH: Yeah it really has. We checked in on Saturday, have been doing meetings ever since. Meetings, interviews, testing, watching film so it’s been an unbelievably hectic week but at the same time it’s been a lot of fun.
What has been your favorite part of being down here this week?
CH: Just having the opportunity to meet some great coaches like coach Childress, Paul Spicer, and my QB coach Craig Johnson. I’ve had an opportunity to be with a lot of good people that have taught me a lot of different things.
Tom: What is one thing you think you have done very well this week?
CH: Just being a leader on the field and commanding the huddle. When guys are down or unfocused or need some extra direction on what they’re doing I think I’m a guy that’s really helped them along. There’s still plenty to work on but I think I’ve added a leadership aspect to the team.
Tom: What is something that your coaches have taught you this week that you consider particularly valuable?
CH: Just the way to actually progressively read through different receivers across the field and getting used to a NFL pass rush. I think they really harped on us as far as the pass rush in the NFL, specifically as defensive ends go, because they are so much faster than anything we’ve seen in college. So they’ve really taught me to play more urgently, to use my feet in the pocket and step up when I need to.
Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a quarterback?
CH: I think just making plays. When the game is on the line whether it is a 3rd and long or a 2 minute situation to go down and win a ball game I think that being able to make plays. Whether it’s a big throw, or scrambling out of the pocket to make a play with my feet or throwing on the run I think that’s something I’ve always been able to provide.
Tom: Yes sir, I’ve seen you do that at NIU many, many times.
CH: NIU asked me to do a lot of different things when I was playing for ‘em and that’s just the kind of player I’ve always been so it was comfortable for me to do that.
Tom: What about something you need to work on?
CH: I think that taking snaps from under center, doing your normal 5 step, 7 step drops. And then if your first guy is not open being able to go through your progressions and find your next receiver or go to your check down in a quick amount of time without getting sacked. Just taking the snap, reading the defense and making the proper throw from under center is something that I really haven’t done in college.
Tom: I agree, and how do you think that has been going this week as you’ve been learning how to do that?
CH: I think every day has gotten better. I think I saw improvement every day and again I think there’s still a lot of work to do, but we’ve had great coaches to get us there and hopefully on Saturday we’ll be able to show off some of those skills.
Tom: Do you have any mentors for the position or people you modeled yourself after?
CH: As far as mentors go I like to contact my two former quarterback coaches. Most recently a guy named Matt Canada who was my quarterback coach at NIU and the guy before him Jim Zebroswki who is now at the University of Minnesota. Those two guys I really keep in contact with a lot. Then as far as modeling my gameplay after, I feel like I’m a pretty unique player. I guess maybe a guy like Jake Locker or Fitzpatrick from Buffalo. Just gritty, tough guys that can make plays with their feet but also can make the throws.
Tom: How would you describe your work habits?
CH: I feel like I’m an incredibly hard worker, especially when we are on the field I’m going 100% all the time. I like to simulate game speed when I’m practicing so I practice as hard as I can. And off the field I watch a lot of film, take a lot of notes. I’m one of those guys that likes to take a lot of notes and then go back over those notes afterwards.
Tom: What do you think is an attribute that is crucial to play and succeed at the quarterback position?
CH: I think definitely just having confidence at the position. It’s one of those jobs where there are a lot of critics out there and you have to be confident in yourself and confident in your abilities to lead a team. Once doubt creeps in your mind is when you start to fail as a quarterback. So if you can maintain a positive self image of yourself and stay confident then everything is easier after that.
Tom: Who are a few players on defense that have stuck out to you this week?
CH: I think Dominique Hamilton is a helluva player, he’s a beast on the inside. Tank Carder from TCU he’s a really good player that can do a lot of different things. He actually intercepted one of my passes today. It just shows what kind of athlete he is. Blake Gideon the safety for Texas is also a good player. We’ve seen a lot of good ones and I’m sure we’ll see more on Saturday.
Tom: Have you heard about Josh Norman and his 6 interceptions in East practices this week?
CH: Yeah I heard about that I kind of followed that along on Twitter. Where is he from?
Coastal Carolina, so I had never really seen him much before, but he really impressed me this week.
CH: Alright, I’ll definitely look out for him on Saturday.
Tom: Anyone on offense that you have been impressed by?
CH: Yeah, we have some really good WR’s. It’s hard to name just one. We have a guy from Fresno State named Devon Wylie who I think has surprised some people. He’s a quick guy, Wes Welker type who has made a lot of plays. Tyler Shoemaker from Boise State has really impressed me. Greg Childs and Jarius Wright are really good players. Our running back Bobby Rainey is a really good player as well. We have some talent there and I think they’ll make a lot of plays.
Tom: How have your offensive linemen been doing?
CH: The offensive line has done great. The first day was kind of a struggle in the new scheme and things like that, but they’ve really settled down and provided a lot of great protection and they’re creating running room in the ground game as well. So there’s a lot of great players there, can’t really name them all, but I think they’re really big guys. They’re strong and they’re smart and they’ve done a great job.
Tom: If you don’t mind me asking, what teams have you talked to this week? Any interesting questions?
CH: Man I’ll tell you what I’ve talked to about every NFL team that’s been here this week. The Packers, Vikings, Titans, Bucs, NY Giants, Jaguars, Falcons, Patriots, Browns, Chiefs. Just to name a few. You get asked a BUNCH of different questions. They range from “Have you ever been arrested?” to “What do your parents do?” to “What do you like to do in the offseason?” to what kind of leader do you describe yourself as, to what would your coaches say about you. Just a lot of in depth questions that start to make you think.
Tom: Yeah they really ask you a lot of quirky stuff!
CH: Yeah and I think a lot of times they want to see your mannerisms, how articulate you are, or how quick you are to blame yourself rather than blame others. I think there’s a lot of things they do to see what kind of person you are because it’s pretty evident by how you answer those questions.
Tom: Where do you see your career going after this?
CH: Nowhere but up. I feel like I’ve done a lot of good things, I’ve done some things poorly down here, but I think it’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot of cool things and been around a lot of great people. I can only get better and continue to work on the techniques I’ve been taught. And being able to get to know Coach Childress and to gain familiarity with the West Coast offense is a great asset for any quarterback.
Tom: I agree, and I don’t think you can be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re gun-shy the scouts will see that and take note of it. Being able to make mistakes and learn from it is an incredibly important skill.
CH: I completely agree with you. You have to find that fine line between being willing to make a mistake and being too aggressive with the football. Sometimes you have to throw it away or you have to tuck and run but there are times you need to make a tight throw or see if you can throw one over the top. I think those guys just want to see what kind of decision maker you are and they also want to see how you bounce back from mistakes. I think that’s one thing that kind of gets overlooked is how you react to adversity when bad things do happen.
Tom: Absolutely! That is a HUGE thing that I look for when I am watching quarterbacks. You have to acknowledge that interceptions and turnovers are going to happen and that you want someone at quarterback who can lead you back down the field and not let those eat at him the rest of the game.
CH: Right, and there’s a lot to be said for having a skill like that; to be able to fight back through adversity.
Tom: Where will you be training for the combine and your pro day?
CH: In a suburb of Chicago, a place called Lake Barrington Field House. It’s a big high performance facility and I’ll train all the way through the combine and to my pro day after that.
Tom: What was your favorite moment during your senior season?
CH: Of my senior season… Man, I’ll tell you what there’s been a lot of great moments but beating Toledo when we beat them 62-60 on ESPN2 was pretty special because it was a rivalry game and there was so much on the line. But I don’t think anything tops the MAC Championship win and kind of the way we did it. NIU hadn’t won a MAC Championship for 28 years so that was really special for former players and alumni to get that one for them. There was a lot of pain there, so we kind of fixed that pain and to be able to hoist up that banner was pretty great.
Tom: Wow I didn’t realize it had been 28 years for NIU!
CH: Right, it was 1983 and we had lost a couple heart-breaking championships in the last 5 years, we could never really finish the job.
Tom: Is there one thing you want to work on or develop once you get to the NFL?
CH: Yeah I think, again, just continuing to work on reading my keys and becoming more and more comfortable under center and taking the 5 step or 7 step drop. Another thing is just being able to block out those distractions and not worry about those critics and the media and maybe some upset fans or whatever it is. Just being able to put that stuff to the side and be comfortable in your own play.
Tom: Is there a specific offense that you’d like to play in in the NFL?
CH: You know what, not really! I just want to get an opportunity to play because I like to think of myself as a pretty smart person that can pick up an offense if he’s coached the right way. But being a spread guy who has played in the shotgun a lot in college I wouldn’t mind playing in a system like that. Again, whoever is paying the bills when you get to that point. It doesn’t really matter to me!
Tom: Do you have any specific goals left for the rest of the week?
CH: Yeah, just continuing to learn our offense and master it by the big game on Saturday. Whether I start or not I want to take advantage of my opportunity and my reps that I get and be smart with the ball so I can show what I can do.
Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?
CH: Oh man. Well I’m a farm boy. I grew up on a farm in a small town. Every summer me and my family we’d sell sweet corn. We’d go out, pick it in the field, sell it out to our local people in our community and that was the greatest time. We didn’t make a lot of money, but you can reconnect with a lot of people from the community and your hometown fans. Just being a country boy and coming from humble beginnings is I guess what I’d like people to know about me.
Tom: Well that’s about all I’ve got, do you have any questions for me?
CH: Yes actually, I saw you were from Minnesota, do you know where Richfield is? I have a teammate who is from there.
Tom: Yes of course! What is your teammate’s name?
CH: His name is Trevor Olson he was my left tackle at NIU. You should definitely follow him because he’s a great player. He’s at the NFLPA game right now and I guess he’s kind of the talk right now at left tackle. This is a guy that started 54 games at left tackle at Northern Illinois. He started every single game and in his career I think he had 5 penalties and gave up 3 sacks and at left tackle which is pretty impressive. He seems like he will be a nice sleeper and definitely make a NFL team that’s for sure.
Tom: Wow! 54 starts and only 5 penalties and 3 sacks? That’s amazing! But hey, tell me how much of that is you helping him out by stepping up and scrambling! *Laughs*
CH: Haha, yeah you know you have to put that into account but that was never a part of my game that I had to worry about was my left side. That’s probably what helped me do some of the things I did. I was always so comfortable in the pocket because I never had to worry about my back side. He’s a great player, he really is.
Tom: That’s great to hear, thanks for the heads up on that! Well it was great to talk to you Chandler, thanks again for taking the time to talk with me and good luck on Saturday!
CH: Thanks, I appreciate it.