INDIANAPOLIS –After throwing for 11,927 yards and 68 touchdowns, appearing in four bowl games at Northern Illinois then being drafted by the Colts, Chandler Harnish knows where the football road started.
It was at a 4A school with about 900 students in Ossian, Indiana.
"Norwell High School is where it all started," said Harnish. "It's where basic abilities were taught to me, the work ethic, getting in the weight room, the love for the game, understanding the intricacies of defense. Those years helped develop my skills."
Harnish was a standout quarterback whose final year yielded a 14-1 record. He helped the school continue a solid program through some seasons before departing for college.
Harnish was drafted in the seventh round by the Colts in 2012, but he never lost touch with home. This week the school board in Norwell's area approved him to assist with the football program.
"I tried to maintain an active relationship with the football program, with Head Coach Jeff Miller and Operations Director Tom Neuenschwander. I'm interested in how they're doing and the development of the kids," said Harnish. "I was talking to one of the coaches in the off-season and he said, 'I'd like to take it to the school board and vote you in as an assistant coach. We understand you can't be there all the time, maybe not much at all. Whenever you can, we'd love to have you there.' I said, 'Absolutely.' "
Harnish works in the weight room and will attend practices when possible. Harnish's younger brother, Piercen, plays quarterback, linebacker and defensive end. While Harnish's example was obvious at home, it will be now to the Norwell squad.
"I have a vested interest in the program," said Harnish. "I think it's one of the those things that promotes what the NFL is all about – getting involved in the community and providing a positive role model and influence, that it's okay to be a good person and play in the NFL at the same time. That's how it began and where it's going."
Norwell was 0-9 in the 2012 regular season before winning twice in the playoffs. Harnish is a firm believer in the coaching staff, and he thinks his collegiate and NFL path lends credibility.
"Hopefully, the kids listen to what I have to say," said Harnish. "Hopefully, they listen because I've 'been there and done that.' I went to college and had some failures and successes and was fortunate enough to get drafted by the Colts, my hometown team.
"I think the kids definitely can find credibility in what I have to say. I've always thought one of the best ways to lead is by example. When you're doing the same things as you did in high school but on a little bit more advanced level, kids can take that and use it in their lives. Those characteristics you show consistently can help them be a better person or player."
Harnish aims to lessen any distance between his position in life and where Norwell players are.
"Sometimes, they're a little bit in awe to talk to an NFL player. I tell them, 'I put my pants on the same way as you do. I'm just an ordinary person trying to do a job,' " said Harnish. "They ask what the league is like, what it's like to play in a bowl game and what it's like to be around Andrew Luck. I have fun answering those questions. People just want to know, and I like to shed light by telling them, 'If you want to make this your dream, here's what you have to do. There's no special formula or secret. It takes a certain amount of hard work, setting high goals and when the lights go on, play ball.'
"I love teaching kids in high school. They're so impressionable. Hopefully, they see a guy who is a good example. You never know, maybe someday they'll have an NFL player."