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Shalom Luani cements Raiders future with big interception in preseason finale ‘feel like I belong here’

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

With 35 players not taking the field for the Raiders in their final preseason game, there actually weren’t many players who played who one could confidently say would be on the final roster. It’s rare that a seventh rounder would have already played himself into being a roster lock. But that looks to be the case with Shalom Luani.

The 7th round safety has been showing up as a playmaker since day one in Oakland. From the outside looking in, he had little to prove Thursday night against the Seahawks. Even if he may not believe it.

“There’s not one game where I go in and think I’ve made my mark,” said Luani. “Every game I go in there and prove myself, that I’m the one. Just play ball. That’s all I gotta do, just play ball.”

Play ball he has. As he said in training camp, his objective is simple; ‘see ball, get ball.’

In the team’s first preseason game he had a great shot to ‘get ball’ when he leapt in the air for what looked like a sure interception only to have it come out of his hands on the way down.

Thursday night, he had another shot at a pick, and this time he wasn’t letting it go.

Late in the first quarter, with the Seahawks ahead 10-0 and looking for more, quarterback Trevone Boykin threw deep over the middle for Kenny Lawler, Luani read it and took a perfect angle to get over the top of Lawler to intercept the ball.

In a preseason in which Luani tied for second on the team in tackles (14) and led the team with 3 passes defended, the turnover was the cherry on top.

“He’s very instinctive,” said head coach Jack Del Rio after the game. “He’s really got a nose for the football. He’s developed special teams wise, some of the things we’re asking him to do. He’s developed in learning our system and things, so yeah I think he’s been a real positive addition for us in the back end.”

We already knew he was sticking around, both as a special teams maven and for his potential at safety. Following his big play, he received plenty of confirmation of that.

“My teammates, and the coaches too,” Luani said. “They all came to me and said ‘good play’. I was excited for my first pick in the league and it’s good to be around that environment. Players come and coaches come and say ‘good job’ it makes me feel like I belong here.”

Yes, you do, Shalom. Unquestionably.