*INDIANAPOLIS – *Matt Hasselbeck is starting his 16th season in the NFL, and he has passed for 201 touchdowns and almost 35,000 yards.
Hasselbeck is by far the most experienced backup quarterback the Colts have had in 16 seasons. There is one number he would not have minded having – eight.
Hasselbeck has worn the jersey number since 2001 when he left Green Bay for Seattle. Later he played at Tennessee in the same number.
Originally, he wore number 11 with the Packers, and he had intended to do the same here, until yesterday.
Jersey number eight followed him through all 80 of his starting victories in Seattle and even to a Super Bowl appearance after the 2005 season.
More importantly, it had grown into a family number. Hasselbeck's daughters wore it in basketball and lacrosse, so it meant something a little extra special.
Jersey number eight never has had the distinguished presence in Indianapolis that it had in Hasselbeck's previous locations. Could there be a chance he could carry on a visual identity for the family?
Enter Chandler Harnish. Harnish, a second-year pro wore number eight last year while active for five games and being on the practice squad for the last 11 outings.
Harnish would not have minded jersey number 12 last year when he was drafted in the seventh round. He was unlucky (literally) in getting the number in Indianapolis, so he took number eight.
Jersey numbers can be emotional attachments, so Hasselbeck and Harnish concocted a contest Monday to see if it would change hands for 2013.
Hasselbeck told Harnish it would be worth $8,000 for the jersey number if Harnish could nail a half-court shot. He would have one chance.
A small party traipsed to a local Salvation Army facility, where Harnish channeled his inner Gordon Hayward.
Hasselbeck had number eight for his daughters and himself.
An alumnus and volunteer football coach at Norwell High School in Ossian, Indiana, Harnish immediately decided to donate the amount to a "Dollars for Scholars" initiative at his school.
Harnish now will be number five in honor of Drew Stanton, who departed the Colts this year for Arizona.
If only Butler University had sought Harnish's services a few years ago…….