In pro football, coaches have long accepted that in an ideal world the two most cerebral athletes on your team need to be your quarterback and your middle linebacker. Think Doug Flutie, Warren Moon, Tom Clements, Danny Bass, Wayne Harris or Mike O’Shea. These athletes combined the qualities of leadership, a high football I.Q. and an off-the-chart level of athleticism.
Oftentimes the difference between a long and lucrative professional career and one that ends after college is that one of those characteristics is missing.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders signed an incredibly intriguing quarterback prospect named Issac Harker from the Colorado School of Mines on April 17 who just might have the makings of a future CFL starting quarterback.
Harker is on the small side at only six foot and doesn’t possess the Cam Newton/ Ben Roethlisberger frame that so many NFL teams covet. Despite the success of quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Drew Brees or NCAA star Kyler Murray who are vertically challenged, some NFL clubs still believe that bigger is better.
While Harker lacks size, he does have an incredible intellect for football, and a desire to prove the doubters from Indiana wrong who have labeled him too small for the quarterback position.
Most quarterbacks wish they had the complete resume that Harker has. Born in Lebanon, Indiana, Harker has lived and breathed the game from a young age. Always a quick study, Harker gravitated toward the position of quarterback. As a high school quarterback he threw for 3,864 yards and 46 touchdown passes over three years. He also rushed for 1,121 yards. He was named First Team All-Sagamore Conference as well as Indiana High School Sports Athletics Association All-State honourable mention. In his Grade 12 year he led Lebanon High School to an 8-3 record and their third consecutive trip into the second round of the ISHSAA playoffs.
Many 18- year- old athletes would be thrilled if the resume ended there, but what makes Harker so intriguing is his intelligence. Harker earned a 4.3 cumulative grade point average and was named the valedictorian of his graduating class. He was also named to the Indianapolis Colts Academic All-State and Scholar-Athlete team. In 2013, Harker was named the Indianapolis Star’s Sportsman of The Year for 2013-2014.
Harker decided to stay close to home and attend Indiana State. In 2014 he was red-shirted. In 2015 he got into three games as the backup quarterback. In 2016 Harker won the training camp battle and emerged as the starting quarterback for Indiana State. He started all 10 games that season, and finished the season 214-for- 370 for 2,559 yards, with 19 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. Harker had 5-300 yard passing games, and 35 passing plays of 20 yards or longer. Harker was named Honourable Mention All-Star-Mid Valley Football Conference and Second-Team Mid Valley Football Conference All-Academic. In his senior year Harker made five starts, while appearing in a total of nine games. He finished the season 59 of 114 for 684 yards and three touchdowns.
In Harker’s four years at Indiana the coaching carousel of offensive co-ordinators, quarterback coaches and head coaches forced the young QB to learn two completely different playbooks, while at the same time graduating on time with a degree in Geology.
Harker wanted to continue his education and was accepted in the Masters of Mineral and Energy Economics program at the Colorado School of Mines. As a graduate transfer, Harker made a huge impact on the Orediggers program after learning a third NCAA offensive playbook in five years. He threw for 3,858 yards and 39 touchdowns in 12 games, finishing the season with a 67 per cent completion rate. Harker earned D2football.com Honourable All-American status as he led Mines to NCAA Division 11 number 2 pass offence and number 1 offence in total yards. Harker’s offence was first in the entire NCAA for touchdowns, second in yardage, second in yards per game, fourth in completion percentage and fourth in total offence. ESPN commentators have questioned why Harker could only put up these kinds of statistics after dropping down to a Division 11 school. Friends of Harker told the Indianapolis Star that Harker was not expecting to be drafted by the NFL and felt “excited and blessed” to sign a contract with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Harker is on track to graduate with his master’s degree in May 2019, just in time to report to Saskatchewan Roughrider training camp May 18.
General Manager Jeremy O’Day and Head Coach Craig Dickenson may have found their project for the future in Harker. Harker will need to impress at training camp in what will be a very competitive quarterback battle for the backup positions behind anointed starter Zach Collaros that will feature veteran Cody Fajardo, sophomore David Watford and likely another quarterback soon to be signed and available for training camp in Saskatoon. Harker appears to have both the football I.Q. and the arm to be a professional quarterback. It will be intriguing to watch the backup quarterback competition play out this season, and hopefully for all four quarterbacks involved in that battle, labour unrest will not cut into any of their exhibition game playing time.