As part of his rookie hazing, San Diego Chargers running back Branden Oliver was forced to sing in front of the entire team. The song Oliver chose? “Lean on Me.”
That’s fitting – because the Chargers leaned on Oliver a whole bunch this past Sunday in a 31-0 win over the New York Jets. Oliver carried 19 times for 114 yards and a touchdown and caught four balls for 68 yards and a touchdown.
“It (felt) great,” Oliver said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I felt like I was back in college.”
Oliver, 23, played college ball at Buffalo. He went undrafted this past May, signed with the Indianapolis Colts and was later cut from their practice squad. With Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead out of action – and with Donald Brown struggling – Oliver has gone from the bottom of the depth chart to one of the trendiest names in the game.
“It’s been great,” Oliver said. “At the same time, it’s been bad because guys went down. But at the same time, I got to step into that role and that’s what Coach (Mike) McCoy tells us: Next man up. So I just had to be ready. It was good to just get out there and get my feet wet and see what it really feels like, to have a game like that.”
Oliver’s 15-yard rushing touchdown late in the second quarter and his 9-yard receiving touchdown midway through the third turned a close 14-0 affair into a 28-0 blowout.
“I was pretty excited because (the Jets) had the No. 1 defense,” Oliver said. “But we stuck together. Coach McCoy came in with the mentality of run the ball downhill and everyone accepted it and that’s what we did.”
Oliver also helped a lot of fantasy football players to victory. In a standard league, Oliver scored 30.2 points. In a standard PPR league – one point per reception – he scored 34.2 points.
“A lot of people have mentioned it to me,” Oliver said of his fantasy impact. “I guess it’s kind of good to help people out in that way. But overall, I’m just trying to help my teammates get the victory and do whatever I can when the coaches call my number.”
It’s been an incredible whirlwind for Oliver, especially after being unemployed earlier this season.
“Most definitely,” Oliver said. “You always think about and visualize these type of things happening, most definitely. But it was a real relief. The offensive line did a great job. Philip Rivers himself was checking out of pass plays to get into run plays. That helped a whole lot. And we got the shutout. That helped my confidence even more.”
Rivers finished 20-of-28 for 288 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
The Chargers (4-1) have now won four straight games and are a safe bet to make it five this Sunday in Oakland, as the Raiders (0-4) are yet to score more than 14 points in a game.
Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m. ET.