Oakland Raiders

Raiders safety Erik Harris has a career game against Chargers – and what a journey it has been

Surrounded by his family on the NFL Network set, Erik Harris donned a hat with the names of his four children on the side.

“When you have a good game like this, they look at you as a hero,” he told the NFL Network crew. “It means a lot to me.”

Harris had a career-best game with two interceptions, including a pick-6 that went for 56 yards as he helped the Oakland Raiders to a 26-24 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

It was Harris’ second pick-6 of the season (he had one against the Indianapolis Colts), marking the first time a Raiders player has returned two interceptions for a touchdown in a single season since Thomas Howard in 2007.

Harris is also the first Raiders player with two interceptions including one for a touchdown in a game since Phillip Buchanon in 2003.

His 115 interception return yards are the second-most in a game against Philip Rivers in his 16-year career and are the most by any player in a game this season.

“Honestly, I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. “I think Philip overthrew the ball a little bit. It was a gift to me.”

Harris told reporters in the locker room of his return, “I just seen a really big lineman chasing me to the sideline at first, which I almost slipped on the sideline. I just knew that I had to beat him and after that it was to the end zone.”

It has been a journey for Harris, from walking on for an NCAA Division II program (California University of Pennsylvania) to working at a potato chip factory and UPS. He played in the Canadian Football League for three seasons. He is in his fourth NFL season.

“A lot of adversity growing up,” he said. “My mom ... just seeing her go through what she went through and it put me in this position to where I am today. My family supported me through and through and my biggest goal was to provide for my family. They supported me and now I have the opportunity to provide for them. It’s incredible and emotional.

“My teammates are making fun of me up there and tell me, ‘Don’t cry’, but it’s an emotional time.”

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Anthony Galaviz writes about sports for The Fresno Bee. He covers the Oakland Raiders, high schools, boxing, MMA and junior colleges. He’s been with The Bee since 1997 and attended Fresno City College before graduating from Fresno State with a major in journalism and a minor in criminology.