Erik Harris didn’t have a straight path to the NFL.
The current Raiders safety went undrafted out of California – the small school in Pennsylvania, not the one in Berekely – played in the Canadian Football League and was released several times in the NFL.
A few years ago, it looked like Harris would never fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL. At one point, his agent told him he should "think about a different career."
But there he was Thursday night, as a starter, making big, game-changing plays as the Raiders beat the Chargers 26-24 in Oakland to improve to 5-4 and inch closer to the AFC West-leading Chiefs, who are 6-4.
Harris had two interceptions – one returned 56 yards for a touchdown – three passes defensed and had a tackle on defense and on special teams as the Raiders won their second consecutive game.
"It was pretty exciting," Harris told reporters after Thursday’s game. "Special moment, special moment for this team, special moment for my teammates, and credit to them for putting me in a position and trusting (me)."
Harris’ first interception led to an Oakland field goal, and his second turned into a touchdown, so 10 of the Raiders’ points in a two-point win were directly tied to his playmaking. Later, he almost had a third interception.
Head coach Jon Gruden told the media: "You can’t say enough about Erik Harris and the secondary."
This is Harris’ third season in Oakland. This year, he’s started seven of nine games, had three interceptions, seven passes defensed and been in on 39 tackles. He’s been a surprise contributor to a team that’s collecting some surprising victories after going 4-12 in 2018.
Harris and the Raiders return to action Sunday, Nov. 17, when they host the Cincinnati Bengals.