LAWRENCE — To the end, Nick Harwell was left with a little sliver of hope. Maybe the NCAA would step in at the last minute and rule on his behalf. He’d heard that was a possibility, anyway, and he was holding out for a last-minute Hail Mary.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
Harwell, just six credits short of graduation at Miami (Ohio), had spent all summer lobbying the school to allow him to graduate after he was dismissed last spring for some off-field troubles. He was hoping he might be able to play right away at Kansas as a graduate transfer, and his dreams of being an NFL wide receiver could be expedited by a year.
But last week, when KU coach Charlie Weis announced that Harwell would redshirt this season, the transfer receiver knew any last-second prayers wouldn’t be answered.
“It’s been very suspenseful,” Harwell said, “not knowing if I was going to play again.”
Now Harwell knows the answer — it just won’t be until next year. He’ll spend the next year as a rare senior redshirt, before being eligible to play his fifth year in 2014.
“When you transfer from somewhere, the transition is really tough,” Harwell said. “I feel like this year off will give me time to get familiar with the offense, get my timing down with the quarterback and be able to help our team actually get better.”
That last part is especially important for Harwell, and not just for the reasons you might think. After recording 97 receptions for 1,425 yards in 2011, Harwell had 68 catches in just nine games last year. He is a receiver with NFL aspirations, and he’s hopeful KU can provide a suitable path to the professional ranks.
“The better the team, the most like you are to get drafted,” Harwell said. “So I want to help the team get better.”
For now, though, Harwell has plenty of other goals while he prepares for a two-year stint at Kansas. First and foremost, he’d like to graduate. He’s pretty close — even after the transfer — and he should be able to accomplish that before playing again.
If Harwell was tempted by the NFL Draft after last season, he says the pull of the league was diminished by a knee injury that caused him to miss three games last season.
“I decided I wanted to play my senior year before I entered the draft or anything like that,” Harwell says. “So me getting in trouble didn’t change any of my thoughts.”
In addition, he’d like to rebuild his reputation after a series of mishaps at Miami (Ohio). The off-field trouble began with a handful of minor, alcohol-related offenses during his first two years at the school, and the ended with a misdemeanor charge of attempted theft involving an incident with his girlfriend.
The particulars of the case were ironic — he was accused of stealing his girlfriend’s cap and gown after an argument — and Harwell would like to work to leave his issues in the past.
“Every day I just thought about what happened, and I reflected on myself,” Harwell said. “I was just going through a hard time, but I stepped back and looked at it, and thanked god for another opportunity at Kansas.”
Harwell said his transfer to KU happened quickly. Weis’ offense is similar to one he ran at Miami during his freshman season, and he liked the idea of playing with KU quarterback Jake Heaps. Now he’ll have to wait, but that definitely beats the alternative of never playing again.
“Hopefully I graduate before I’m able to play my last season,” Harwell said. “Just show people that the small mishap that I had really isn’t me, and just enjoy my stay here at Kansas for right now.”
Video of the day
On Tuesday morning, the seventh day of fall camp, the Jayhawks hit the field in the morning for the first of two practices. The media was allowed to watch the first 20 minutes of practice. Here's footage from a full-team offense drill. That's senior James Sims running the ball for the first-team offense.