Thursday, July 23, 2009

Harrell Is A Man On A Mission

By Scott Morganroth

Prior to the NFL Draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper said some of his top busts of All-Time were: 1) Tony Mandarich, 2) Ryan Leaf, 3) Art Schlichter, 4) Akili Smith, 5) Ki-Jana Carter and 6) Lawrence Phillips.
If I wanted to research more and name many others, this list could lead to my own version of a Hall of Shame and this museum would be located in Iraq.
But there is one player who won't be included in such a discussion.
Why former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell wasn't drafted this year baffles me. He did get a free agent workout by the Cleveland Browns but wasn't offered a contract. The perception is he didn't have the arm strength to succeed in the NFL.
Harrell is the NCAA Division I career leader in touchdown passes with 134. He passed for 15,793 yards. The 6-3, 205 pound native of Ennis, Texas., had to fight the perception that his numbers were the product of Texas Tech's offensive system. Even if that is partly accurate, it didn't stop the San Francisco 49'ers from selecting his favorite wide receiver Michael Crabtree as the 10th pick overall in the first round.
Despite lobbying from his Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach to get more tryouts, now Harrell is on a mission to put himself in a group which includes former NFL quarterbacks Warren Moon and Doug Flutie. It's the "I'll Prove The Critics Wrong" group.
Harrell will begin his pro career the same way Moon and Flutie did in the CFL. Moon and Flutie are legends playing in a league which has a 55-yard line and longer end zones.
Harrell signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and will have all the time he needs to develop.
Even though the Grey Cup isn't as prestigious as the Vince Lombardi Trophy, if he's fortunate enough to lead his team to a championship as Moon and Flutie did, there will be a payday down the road in the NFL.
One thing is for certain, he won't ever have to be viewed as one of the biggest busts in the NFL. For the time being, in addition to working towards a championship, a great CFL career could lead towards gaining a bust in the CFL Hall of Fame.
If Harrell can duplicate or come close to last season's numbers when he went 442-626 for 5,111 yards, amassing 45 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, the CFL fans will be thrilled. In Texas Tech's 39-33 victory over the Texas Longhorns on November 1, Harrell threw for 474 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
He played in the tough Big 12 Conference against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Nebraska so nobody can say he didn't face quality competition. I'll be monitoring how the 49'ers fare this season, and in this crazy world of ironies, who knows, maybe if San Francisco Coach Mike Singletary isn't happy with his signal callers, it would be neat to see Harrell reunited with Crabtree.
Should Harrell get to the NFL, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that scouts are human and they do make mistakes which when judging amateur talent. There is major margin of error and these busts/mistakes do cost teams millions of dollars and championships.
There is no exact science to finding talent but at least with the CFL and now the UFL, there are other leagues to give guys an opportunity to develop their skills. We should also remember that Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner led the Iowa Barnstormers to a pair of Arena Football League title games.
We all know that one major injury can destroy a team's dreams to win a title although the St. Louis Rams were lucky when Warner replaced Trent Green and led them to their lone Super Bowl title in 1999 and he was the NFL MVP.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

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