After getting in touch with running backs coach Matt MacPherson in the spring, Harwell received high praise from linebackers coach Randy Bates and other members of the coaching staff. He was told that an offer was on its way, so long as his workout performance validated his impressive game tape.
Then Harwell pulled his hamstring and his status for the Evanston camp was in jeopardy. Having developed an authentic interest in the school, he nonetheless attended, but participated only in position-specific, one-on-one drills. The most important part of his evaluation—measurable tests like the 40-yd dash and the shuttle run—was incomplete, the injury limiting his first-step explosiveness and sprinting speed.
"It was pretty discouraging," Harwell said. "But I felt the workout went well, it was a good experience overall."
Without those all-important measurable tests, the offer promised to Harwell never came. Yet he received assurance from several coaches that he remains high on their list of linebacker prospects in 2013 and can expect an offer once he rehabs his injury and sends video evidence of an acceptable, well-executed 40-yd dash and shuttle run.
The Wildcats' interest was entirely welcome news, and his attraction to the program has dramatically increased over conversations with MacPherson, Bates and coach Fitzgerald. Whereas coaches from other programs come off as unclear—distrustful, even—in outlining their future plans for Harwell, he believes Bates and Fitzgerald have exuded a remarkably direct, simplistic openness and sincerity with their future plans.
"They've been so open about everything, telling me exactly where they see me playing and how they plan to use me," he said. "I don't get that from other coaches, this kind of security."
His fascination with the Wildcats stems in part from his experience on campus. Harwell toured the school with Director of Player Personnel Chris Bowers, an experience that left him in awe of the football facilities, academic buildings and surrounding area. For Harwell, NU was less a campus than a vacation spot.
"Coming from Texas, I had no idea what to expect, really," he said. "But when I walked around campus, I was amazed. The Lake, the beach, the whole campus. I felt like I was at a resort."
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound prospect said Bates plans to use him at outside linebacker early on, then move him inside once he improves his size and strength. Harwell truly appreciates the candor with which Bates describes their future together, and said the linebackers coach made him feel like "family." These exchanges, more than anything else, left Harwell sold on the school, the team and the program as a whole.
If Harwell receives an offer—he sounds remarkably confident that he will—it's all but a foregone conclusion that he will accept.
"After going there and talking it over with my family," he said. "I knew I wanted to go there, I knew I wanted to be a Wildcat."