Try visiting JoeyHarrington.net, and the pre-game motorcycle revs while an image of the 23-year-old University of Oregon quarterback appears. In his green No. 3 uniform, Harrington stands tall and confident.
He stood even taller in the six-story “Joey Heisman” mural that graced Times Square in New York City this summer, and he appeared more daunting on the Aug. 13 cover of Sports Illustrated.
Clouded by this sports marketing and media blitz, fans may not be able to see Harrington’s true self. And with a college bowl ring, the Davey O’Brien Award and a National Football League career as future possibilities, the real Joey Harrington guards his privacy and counts on his family ties to keep him grounded.
In 1997, Harrington almost landed at Stanford University, but the football star chose the University of Oregon, in part because he could remain closer to his parents, John and Valerie Harrington, and their home in Portland. Harrington’s grandfather, who Joey called “his buddy,” lives about a mile from the parents.
Sports were as intrinsic to Harrington’s childhood as his Irish Catholic values. Like many of his immediate and extended family, Harrington graduated from Central Catholic High School. When he wasn’t playing football, basketball, baseball, golf or tennis, Harrington could often be found watching Oregon or University of Notre Dame football on television.
Harrington shares this passion for football with his family. His grandfather Bernie played football for the University of Portland and passed up an opportunity to play professionally with the Chicago Bears in order to get married. Two of Joey’s uncles played football for the University of Oregon, and his dad was the quarterback for the Ducks during the 1960s.
Now Joey Harrington is something of a celebrity, but he has made an effort to remain close to the people who have supported him from the beginning. These people include his two younger brothers, Mike and Nick, his immediate family, and the many relatives and family friends who charter a bus to Eugene on Saturdays to watch home games.
The quarterback returns the favor. This summer, Harrington drove up from Eugene to visit his grandfather in the hospital.
“He will come to see us, where other youngsters don’t have the time,” Harrington’s grandfather said.
While Harrington often spends eight hours a day practicing and preparing for games, his father said it is important for Joey to leave the scrutiny and publicity of football behind when he walks away from Autzen Stadium. Although the sports marketing major is celebrated now, John said his son wants to be accepted as an ordinary college student.
Both John and Bernie said the family does not talk about Joey’s future, which sets him apart from most Oregon graduates. While most are facing the tough task of finding a job, Harrington could be drafted in the NFL and earn millions.
“My only hope for him is that he will make decisions that will cause happiness in his life,” John Harrington said. “Some of those awards would be nice — but that would not make any difference in the big picture, to what kind of person he is.”