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Catching Up With The Buffs: Evan Harrington In Front Office Spot With Washington Football Team

Sep 23, 2020

BOULDER — Evan Harrington has coached and played football in four countries, formed and conducted the biggest football camp in the world outside of the United States, coached at a program that was featured on Netflix's "Last Chance U," worked for the world's governing body of soccer, and is now the assistant director of player development for the NFL's Washington Football Team.

All that in the nine years since he graduated from Colorado after playing two years for the Buffaloes in 2010-11.

It is, he admits with a laugh, a rather lengthy resume for someone who just turned 30 earlier this year.

"When I tell you I'm blessed, I truly believe that," Harrington said recently. "I've had the opportunity to do a lot of things and enjoyed them all. I was never the greatest athlete, but I always have been determined to outwork everybody and do my best to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way."

Harrington played two years at CU after transferring from College of the Canyons. He played linebacker in the last year of the Dan Hawkins era, then switched to fullback in the first year of Jon Embree's tenure in Boulder.

Since then:

— He spent time in the San Diego Chargers' training camp before playing a season with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League.

— Then came a year as a graduate assistant at CU under Mike MacIntyre.

— After that, he worked for a year as a high school assistant coach in California, where he worked out regularly with players in strength and conditioning drills. "My kids told me I should give playing another shot, so that's what I did."

— That led to stints as a player, first in Switzerland, where he helped the Basel Gladiators win a title; then in Germany, where he helped Frankfurt to a championship.

— Then the coaching bug hit, and he returned to Switzerland to coach in Winterthur. There, he also landed a job working for FIFA in the soccer governing body's security arm.

— At the same time, he formed "Europe's Elite," a non-profit group that helped youngsters in Europe catch the eye of U.S. college recruiters. He also formed the wildly popular "Level Up" camp, which featured a number of former CU coaches and players, including former QBs coach Rip Scherer and former player Alonzo Barrett.

— It was Scherer who then urged him to return to the United States and get back into coaching. So, he took an internship at Independence Community College in Kansas, where he was part of "Last Chance U."

— And, it was during his stay at Independence that he renewed his acquaintance with his former running backs coach in Boulder, Eric Bieniemy, who had landed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

— That led to a trip to the NFL Combine with Bieniemy in the spring of 2019, which produced an interview with Washington. He turned the interview into a job as an assistant running backs coach, as well as a spot as the assistant to the director of player development, where he worked for former CU strength coach Malcolm Blacken.

— Finally, this year, he was promoted to assistant director of player engagement, leaving his coaching duties behind (at least for now).

The moral to the story?

"Never, ever burn a bridge," Harrington said. "I tell our young guys all the time — no matter what you think or hear, never burn a bridge. I still talk to every single one of my coaches, from peewee football through college, whenever I get the chance. You have to build those contacts and relationships. Because of Malcolm Blacken and Eric Bieniemy, I got this opportunity to be here. Because of Dan Hawkins and (then-assistant) Brian Cabral, I got to go to Colorado. Those guys are all leaders of men, on and off the field. And that's what I'm trying to do now in player development."

Harrington's current duties include a variety of tasks, helping Washington players with their personal and professional lives. He is particularly involved with young players as they learn to negotiate the landscape that is a professional career and the obstacles that can come with that career.

"People don't realize these guys are just kids when they get here," Harrington said. "Some of them are the first in their families to ever have a substantial amount of money. In college, their coaches are able to protect them from the predators. At this level, we try to help protect them and help them do the right thing."

That involves a myriad of classes, seminars and simple one-on-one discussions.

"The NFL does a great job in helping educate these guys," Harrington said. "We teach 25 to 30 classes per year to each rookie class. We're teaching financial literacy, healthy relationships, how to invest your money, things like that. The NFLPA also does a great job in helping provide that education. Those are aspects of life that I think people forget. We only see them on the football field. But when they aren't playing, they have to pay their bills, they have to be family members, they have to do all the things that everyone else does."

One major perk of the job?

Harrington gets to meet weekly with Hall of Fame quarterback Doug Williams, now Washington's senior vice president of player development.

"I call that my school days," Harrington said. "I talk to him about life, about his experiences as a player and coach, and how we can better help our guys with the Washington Football Team be successful on and off the field."

Harrington also gives full credit to his wife, Daniela, who he met while in Switzerland. The two have three children, "and without her support, I couldn't have done all this. She is just amazing."

But the biggest lesson he has learned over the years might have come from his parents.

"They gave me the drive and work ethic," he said. "Watching them work so hard all their lives and encouraging me to do better, work hard at everything I did. They instilled something in me at a young age and it has stuck with me all these years."