Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The O'Brien Finalists Revealed: Graham Harrell

FORT WORTH, Texas (December 3, 2008) - Graham Harrell of the Texas Tech Red Raiders is one of three Finalists for the 2008 Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award® (The O'Brien) announced November 24. Harrell is competing against Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Texas' Colt McCoy for The O'Brien, honoring the nation's best college quarterback. Red Raider fans are encouraged to show their support for Harrell by visiting and casting their vote as often as once daily. The voting will continue until December 7 with 5% of the final tally coming directly from the Fan Vote.

Harrell has led Texas Tech to what is arguably the Red Raiders' most successful season in school history. The senior quarterback directed his team to an 11-1 record, marking the school's first 11-win regular season. Harrell and the Raiders also completed the season with a 7-1 record in Big 12 Conference play, establishing a new Texas Tech school record. Breaking records is something Harrell has grown accustom to, as he is now the Red Raiders' leader in touchdown passes, completions, all-time passing yards and total offense.

"Graham is a team leader and makes the players around him better," Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach said of his quarterback. "He's a student of the game and is one of the most committed players I've been around. Graham always finds ways to make the players around him and himself better."

In Tech's game last Saturday against Baylor, Harrell went 41-of-50, completing 82 percent of his passes despite an injury incurred during the second quarter which resulted in two shattered fingers on his non-throwing hand. Harrell had 17 pins and two plates inserted in his hand as he underwent surgery the day after the game to heal nine separate breaks. However, the pain did not deter the Tech quarterback on Saturday as he threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns, elevating his season totals to 4,747 and 41, respectively. The Red Raiders' 35-28 defeat of the Bears earned them the title of Big 12 South Co-Champions, a first-ever for Tech. The Raiders share this title with Oklahoma and Texas and complete the season with a No. 6 (BCS) ranking.

In the midst of this prolific season for the Raiders, their quarterback has competed with the memory of his grandfather close to his heart. Harrell recalls the passing away of his grandfather, a football coach like Harrell's father, as the most significant moment in his life. According to Harrell, it was his grandfather who first introduced his family to the sport of football and the first person with whom Harrell remembers playing the game. In honor of his grandfather, Harrell competes with his name printed on the sleeve of his undershirt every time he puts on his number six jersey.

Harrell is in his third and final year as quarterback for the Raiders. During the 2007 season, he was the nation's leading passer. After throwing for more than 400 yards in all but two games, onlookers across the country began to take notice of Harrell as he was named the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl MVP, the Sammy Baugh Trophy winner, All-Big 12 Conference Second Team, Academic All-Big 12 First Team, and received numerous other accolades. In 2006 this signal caller, who names Joe Montana as his biggest sports hero, boasted the best sophomore season in school history with 4,555 passing yards and 38 touchdowns.

The six-foot-three Texas native graduated from Texas Tech in December 2007 with a degree in history and is now working toward earning his master's in education. And although he has achieved alumni status, Harrell admits that he may at times be caught watching America's Next Top Model. Prior to enrollment at Tech, Harrell attended Ennis High School where he was coached by his father, Sam Harrell, who he credits as the biggest influence on his football career. While a three-year starter at Ennis, Harrell was twice named Class 4A Offensive Player of the Year (Associated Press) and was a two-time All-State selection. He passed for 4,825 yards and 67 touchdowns during his senior season, is the state of Texas' all-time leading passer with 12,532 yards and 167 touchdowns; and ranks nationally in single-season touchdowns (second), career touchdowns (third) and career passing yards (sixth).

Harrell will continue to vie for The O'Brien with Finalists Bradford and McCoy until the Winner is announced during The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show on December 11. All Finalists will be in attendance in Orlando, Fla., for the awards show. The O'Brien recipient will be honored February 16, 2009, at the 32nd Annual O'Brien Awards Dinner at The Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

Photo Credit: College Press Box (Texas Tech)