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Scott Procter Scott Procter BVM Sports Senior Editor/Journalist
Joey Harrington’s story: From Oregon star to NFL bust

Joey Harrington’s story: From Oregon star to NFL bust

PORTLAND, Ore. (BVM) – Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Joey Harrington was seemingly destined to play football for the Oregon Ducks. His grandfather played quarterback for the University of Portland and his father was a signal caller at the University of Oregon.

In fact, legendary Ducks coach Len Casanova jokingly sent Harrington’s parents a letter of intent upon hearing of his birth.

After starring at Central Catholic High School, Harrington followed in his father’s footsteps and went on to become a three-year starter at Oregon. He was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year after his senior season (2001) in which threw for 2,415 yards and 23 touchdowns. Harrington led the Ducks to a No. 2 national ranking and finished fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy that season. He finished his Oregon career with 6,911 passing yards, 77 total touchdowns and his 7,121 yards of total offense rank sixth in University of Oregon history.

He appeared destined for a long and successful NFL career.

Joey Harrington’s NFL career

Harrington was selected third overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2002 NFL Draft and took over for incumbent quarterback Mike McMahon late in the Lions’ Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins before becoming the team’s starter shortly thereafter. He finished his rookie season with a 50.1 completion percentage, 12 touchdowns to 16 interceptions and a 59.9 quarterback rating as the Lions finished with a 3-13 record. Despite the rough season, Harrington was named the 2002 recipient of the Detroit Lions Rookie of the Year Award, but his career in Detroit would remain largely unsuccessful.

Between a poor front office, coaching and a lack of surrounding talent, Harrington’s career never got off the ground and in 2005, he was benched for veteran Jeff Garcia after the team’s 2-3 start. It was the first since the 2002 season that Harrington did not appear in a Lions’ game which broke a string of 37 consecutive appearances. He would start again for the Lions later that season, throwing three touchdowns without an interception during a 29-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals and was voted by fans as their Offensive Player of the Year, according to the Lions’ official website. However, Harrington was traded to the Miami Dolphins following the 2005 season for a fifth-round draft pick. He started 55 games and had a 18-37 record in Detroit.

In Miami, Harrington would serve as the backup behind new Dolphins QB Daunte Culpepper for the 2006 season. After Culpepper injured his shoulder prior to Week 5, Harrington started 11 games for the Dolphins, going 5-6 (Miami finished the season at 6-10) and getting some revenge on the franchise that drafted him. He threw for 213 yards and three touchdowns during a 27-10 win over the Lions in front of a national TV audience on Thanksgiving Day. 

Harrington agreed to a two-year, $6 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons the following year to compete for the backup role to Michael Vick. He was elevated to the starting role following Vick’s suspension for the 2007 season but Atlanta signed Byron Leftwich after an 0-2 start as a possible replacement. Harrington was released after the season in a salary cap move before signing with the New Orleans Saints as the third-string QB for his last stop in the NFL. After being cut by the Saints in 2009, he would not sign with another team.

On a recent episode of The Rich Eisen Show with guest host Ryan Leaf, Harrington discusses what he believes led to an underwhelming NFL career that once seemed so promising.

“I definitely know that I didn’t come into that (Lions) locker room or that opportunity with the business mindset that is needed now,” Harrington told Leaf on The Rich Eisen Show. “It’s truly ‘produce on the field or get the hell out of the way.’ I was still coming from that college idea of ‘hey, let’s build camaraderie, let’s have team BBQs and we’ll build this thing together from the ground up.’ Then people start looking at you like ‘man, we’ve got millions of dollars tied up right now. Go produce right now or we’re going to find someone else to do it.’ That had never been my reality before.”

Joey Harrington’s career earnings, net worth

Despite a disappointing career,. Harrington made more than $31 million during his seven-year NFL career, according to SpoTrac, and his net worth currently sits at $2 million, according to TheRichest.

Instead of just sitting on his wealth, Harrington is paying it forward.

What’s Joey Harrington up to now?

The Harrington Family Foundation was established in 2002 and has raised more than $2 million for students across the state of Oregon by providing students with need-based leadership scholarships, mentorship support and an active community network. Harrington then announced a new scholarship-mentorship program in early 2014: the Oregon Community Leadership Scholarship. It’s awarded each academic year to four Oregon graduating high school seniors headed to an in-state university, college or trade school. The four-year renewable scholarship at $5,000 per year ($20,000 total per student) offers students personalized access to a board of influential leaders/mentors in the community.

In 2009, Harrington worked as an NFL and college football commentator for Fox Sports Radio before serving as a color analyst for Oregon Ducks football games on Oregon Sports Network the next year. He currently is a college football analyst for Fox College Football and is a general assignment reporter with KGW Television on a part-time basis in Portland, Oregon.

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