It is August 29th, 2005 when Eric Harper's life took an unexpected turn. That was the day that the levee broke and flooded the world which Eric had grown up in. That was the day that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and Eric's home town of Marrero just south of the city.
Within the terror of that time for the New Orleans area stood Harper, a highschool player who would not quit. Forced to change schools after being displaced by the horrific storm was not enough to stop Harper from making it to an NFL roster. Changing colleges and positions was not enough either, not when you already have seen the world you grew up in be washed away in just a matter of hours.
Invited to the Raiders rookie mini camp on a tryout basis was all Eric needed to prove he deserved a longer look. Always feeling overlooked was a regular feeling for him but that will never stop him from putting himself out there. The quotes from Harper that I will be using in this article I gleaned from Matt Vines of thenewsstar.com.
"I’ve been the undiscovered talent that seems to come out of nowhere, but I’ve got to show them what I can offer. I’m not counting me out, but maybe they are. I have a mindset that I will not and cannot fail."
The first stage of this young man's possible NFL career has passed with his no quit/no fail mindset serving him well enough to get him signed to the Oakland Raiders. He says the Raiders will be playing him as a Defensive End but he can play DE, LB or TE for the team, whatever gets him to accomplish his dream he is willing to do.
For the first 3 years of Harper's collegiate career he attended Louisiana Tech and played TE where he finished his career there with 8 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. His greatest achievement at Louisiana Tech actually had nothing to do with football, it was recieving his degree in Liberal Arts. That college degree was the first one to be granted to a member of the Harper family.
After he graduated with that Liberal Arts degree Harper took the opportunity to transfer to Grambling State to be a full time starter for their football team for his final year of elegiibily. He had the chance to play LB for Grambling and he did so well, accumulating 54 tackles with 6.5 sacks. His best game came against the University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff who had an impressive NFL talent of their own in OT Terron Armstead.
You might remember the name of Terron Armstead due to his record breaking 40 yard dash for a lineman at this year's combine. He was drafted in the 3rd round by the New Orleans Saints. Eric knew that this was a day that he had to take advantage of because this was his chance to play against an NFL worthy player with NFL scouts watching.
"He’s (Armstead) a great football player with good footwork, so I had to figure out how to capitalize on my athleticism," Harper said. "Going into it, I knew he would be of that caliber ... and I had one of my best games."
He took advantage with 9 tackles including 3 of them for losses. That game is likely the reason he got invited to the Raiders rookie mini camp and therefore also the reason he now has a signed contract to be a member of the Raiders team.
Nothing is promised with this contract, he still has to battle every day to prove he is worthy of making the final roster. He knows this already though and he will give it his all. This isn't the first time he will have to face a huge challenge and it wont be the last time.
"I think about everything I had to go through to get to this point," Harper said. "I’ve faced obstacles throughout my entire life when everything is coming to knock you down.
"But my grandpa always said that no matter how many times you get knocked down, you get back up. That’s allowed (me) to be here and to be very blessed."
Yet again Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders are showing that character matters greatly to them by giving Eric Harper a chance to make this team. Harper has another obstacle in his life now to try and overcome, he still has to make it on the active roster for Week 1. With an attitude like his it leaves little doubt that he is relishing the chance to show that he can overcome that obstacle too though.