Skip to main content

New Offense, New Opportunity For QB Harrell

It has taken awhile for quarterback Graham Harrell to get this chance. Longer than he would have hoped, and longer than most would think for a player with All-America honors and NCAA career passing records to his credit. But if Harrell is frustrated, he isn’t letting on.


It has taken awhile for quarterback Graham Harrell to get this chance. Longer than he would have hoped, and longer than most would think for a player with All-America honors and NCAA career passing records to his credit.

But if Harrell is frustrated that last year, his first out of college, didn't produce an NFL contract offer and led him to spending a year in the Canadian Football League as basically a practice player - and that now, two years removed from his decorated career at Texas Tech, he's finally with an NFL team after the Packers signed him late last month - he isn't letting on.

"If you're bitter at the game then it's time to quit playing," said Harrell, who has had all of two organized team activities (OTAs) to settle in with the Packers so far. "Being in Canada is a chance to play. There's no point in getting upset about that or mad about that. It was the situation I was dealt, and so you have to go make the best of it. That's what I've tried to do. There's tons of people who would love to be playing in Canada or playing anywhere just to still be able to play the game.

"My ultimate goal has always been to be down here and play, so when the opportunity arose I jumped on it. But being up there, it's still football and you're still playing the game you grew up loving and love to play, so I was grateful for that opportunity too."

Harrell feels his year with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL will benefit him as he enters a competition with rookie Noah Shepard to be the Packers' No. 3 quarterback. Whether that job is as a member of the active roster or the practice squad remains to be seen, after Green Bay kept only two QBs (Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn) on the 53-man roster last season.

But whatever spot he's fighting for, Harrell will put the Canadian experience to good use. He didn't play in any games for Saskatchewan, spending the season on the injured list - or more accurately, the inactive list, because he wasn't injured and could practice but was being protected from going to another team - but found the time valuable nonetheless.

"Absolutely," Harrell said. "I practiced for 20 weeks or whatever it was, and I saw the more professional side of football.

"And it's a bigger field that makes you make bigger throws. Coming out of the spread system we ran (at Texas Tech), a lot of people acted like we don't make down-the-field throws, so (playing in Canada) was a deal where it makes you throw them and prove that you can and make you better at them. So it did help with that."

The spread system Harrell ran at Tech and many preconceived notions about it contributed to his struggle to get a shot in the NFL before now. He finished his career as the NCAA's all-time leader in pass completions (1,403) and passing TDs (134) and is second in passing yards (15,793).

But operating exclusively out of the shotgun raised some red flags. So did the fact that two of his statistically impressive Texas Tech predecessors, Kliff Kingsbury and B.J. Symons, both tried to make it in the NFL but never started a game in this league.

Harrell did try out for the Cleveland Browns in their rookie mini-camp last season, and again this year, before getting a workout with the Packers last month.

{sportsad300}Since signing, he's been focused on studying his playbook and making the most of this opportunity, because he may not have much time to make an impression. Whether ultimately his football future is in Green Bay or elsewhere, it would mean a lot to get some preseason game snaps on film for other teams to see. But he has to make it to training camp first, and there's no guarantee of that with the 80-man roster limit.

"The most important thing for a quarterback is always knowing the system," he said. "It can be wordy at times, so you really have to study and learn your lingo and terminology in the plays. But it's a great system that gives you a great chance to be successful as a quarterback. It's been fun learning it, and I have to make the most of every rep."

Those reps will be hard to come by with four quarterbacks currently on the roster, and with Rodgers and Flynn commanding the bulk of them. But that's the life of any NFL player down the depth chart trying to get noticed.

For Harrell, the fact that he's getting even a few reps in an NFL practice puts him ahead of where he was a year ago. As long as he's waited for this chance, that's all that matters right now.

"I just want to work hard," he said. "I'm thankful for this opportunity, and I look forward to trying to make the roster.

"I'm just here to try to do what they ask me to do, make this team better any way I can and prove whatever I need to prove hopefully."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.