How Eagles LB Haason Reddick went from Temple walk-on to NFL game-wrecker

How Eagles LB Haason Reddick went from Temple walk-on to NFL game-wrecker

PHILADELPHIA — The question had nothing to do with Haason Reddick, the leading edge forward, but Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts couldn’t help but focus on him.

Following Philadelphia’s 31-7 chokehold against the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s NFC title game, Hurts was asked about his own situational awareness in key moments and was talking about IQ and football fundamentals when he pivoted.

“Haason Reddick, he’s been a bad guy all year,” Hurts said. “And that’s what we need to move forward.”

It’s hard to overstate the impact Reddick had against San Francisco. In the first half alone, he racked up two sacks, three pressures, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The 49ers’ fate was sealed midway through the first quarter when Reddick came off the edge and generated a strip sack by hitting the arm of Brock Purdy, who suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow during the game. knocked Purdy out of the game and rendered him ineffective when he was forced to return following a Josh Johnson concussion.

“You never want anyone to get hit or hurt, and I hope they’re okay,” coach Nick Sirianni said, “but it’s definitely been a game-changer.”

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Reddick finished the regular season with 16 sacks – second only to his counterpart that day, Nick Bosa – and was second in ESPN’s pass rush success rate (28%) behind Micah Parsons (30%). ). His 18.5 sacks created led the league. Still, he was not named a Defensive Player of the Year finalist.

“Hey, s—,” he said when asked about the snub. “I think my game said it today. That’s all I have to say about it.”

The respect that Reddick, 28, has sought not just all season, but all of his life as a footballer, seemed to crash into him as he stood in the center of the locker room after the game, wearing NFC champion gear and was engulfed by a swarm of reporters, drawing the biggest crowd in a room full of stars. Moments earlier, with green and white confetti falling from the sky and thousands of fans celebrating, the magnitude of the victory began to be felt. Reddick, a kid from Camden, New Jersey, had just helped snag his hometown team’s ticket to the Super Bowl with an elite performance at Lincoln Financial Field – the same stadium where he won his chops football while playing for Temple.

And now he was heading to the Super Bowl in Arizona, where his professional career began and where his NFL dream nearly died.

“It’s crazy, man. Just blessings upon blessings upon blessings,” Reddick said. “I didn’t see it coming, and now that it’s here, I’m at a loss for words.”

Haason Reddick has 19.5 sacks in 19 games for the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Most NFL SUCCESS stories begin with tales of dominating the football field as children, demonstrating an ability that convinced coaches that big things were on the horizon.

Reddick is not one of those stories.

When Reddick arrived at Haddon Heights High School, he was “just another skinny kid with talent and athletic ability,” according to school athletic trainer Tim O’Donnell, adding that Reddick “doesn’t didn’t stand out” at the start.

Reddick’s junior and senior seasons were cut short by injuries. He was sidelined his entire freshman year with a growth plate fracture in his leg and missed most of his senior year with a torn meniscus in his knee. The prospects for playing college ball looked bleak.

But Reddick’s father, Raymond Matthew, was close to a new member of Temple’s coaching staff, Francis Brown, and reached out.

“They had to beg and basically say, ‘Hey, can you make room for this kid? ‘” Haddon Heights coach Chris Lina said.

Reddick made the team as a walk-on and started his career as a defensive back before moving to edge rusher as he gained weight. Breaking through as a non-scholarship athlete has proven difficult under Temple head coach Steve Addazio. Addazio told Reddick after his first season that he would have no place in the team in the future, several people close to Reddick have said.

But when Addazio left to become head coach at Boston College and Matt Rhule took over at Temple, Reddick was back on the team.

“He changed his life,” Lina said.

Reddick went on to compile 17.5 sacks and 47 tackles for loss in four seasons at Temple. A strong senior year led to him being selected 13th overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Linebacker Haason Reddick went from a walk-on at Temple University to the Arizona Cardinals’ 13th overall pick in 2017. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

REDDICK flourished in college as an outside rusher, but was asked to play inside linebacker in his early seasons with the Cardinals. By the time the 2020 season rolled around, he was mentally exhausted.

Everything that is required of the inside linebacker position – reading the keys, watching the guards, intense focus on the lineout – did not allow Reddick to play the kind of fast and instinctive style of football in which he excelled. naturally.

“I remember having a conversation with my dad before deciding whether I wanted to go back to the edge or not,” Reddick said in September. “I remember telling him that I felt like if I didn’t do that, I felt like if I didn’t ask them to put me back, after that it’s either no more football, no more NFL for me or I’ll just be a special team.”

Matthew’s advice was to “leave all the cards on the table”.

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Reddick approached Davis and then-defensive coordinator Vance Joseph about returning to the outside. All parties having nothing to lose, the change of position was made. A Chandler Jones injury opened a window of opportunity and Reddick cashed in, racking up 12.5 sacks in 2020.

Still, Arizona didn’t re-sign him.

“It was very disappointing that we couldn’t find a way to keep him,” Arizona linebackers coach Billy Davis said. “As a coaching staff, we thought of him as a worker, as a teammate. I have nothing against Haason. I wish we still had him.”

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The Carolina Panthers signed Reddick to a one-year, $8 million contract in the offseason and Reddick generated 11 sacks, but found himself again as a free agent at the end of the season. .

The Eagles pounced, signing him to a three-year, $45 million deal in March, hoping he would be the missing piece in defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s squad — and he was.

Reddick has 19.5 sacks in 19 games, including the playoffs. Adding weight in the offseason — he’s officially listed at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds — added another dimension to his game, allowing him to “move guys out of my way whenever I wanted to.” .

Yet Reddick has rarely been mentioned among the best in his position. Those close to him speculate it’s the product of initially being an inside linebacker, changing teams multiple times and playing in smaller markets before Philly.

“I’m not crying or asking for respect, but it has to be there,” Reddick said after a Dec. 11 win over the New York Giants, when he hit double-digit sacks for a third straight season. “Three different teams, three different schemes, three different coaches, three different [defensive coordinators]. What does that tell you?”

After the Defensive Player of the Year finalists were released, omitting it, Reddick tweeted, “At some point this has got to stop.”

SIGNING WITH PHILADELPHIA was influenced by her desire to be closer to her family. He wanted to come home, and there were a lot of benefits.

In October, he visited his old high school to deliver an inspirational message to current players.

“I can talk to the kids all the time about hard work and dedication and it doesn’t matter. He came in and said the same thing to the guys but that was awesome coming from a guy wearing a shirt of the Eagles who sat in the same cafeteria that you sat in,” Lina said.

After signing with the Eagles, Haason Reddick visited his alma mater, Haddon Heights High School. Courtesy of Chris Lina

“Our kids are like, ‘I’m bigger than him.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, he’s way better than you,’ Lina said with a laugh. “This guy doesn’t have the fortune of being huge, but he’s got a drive that most people can’t find. .”

High crime rates can make Camden a dangerous place to grow up. To help keep Reddick out of harm’s way when he arrived, Matthew had him focus on football and training.

“We would run a mile to the gym, practice and back off a mile,” Matthew said. “It was a lot of talking, just to make sure he saw all walks of life. He was mature at an early age.”

The tradition continues in the offseason, although they no longer race to the local training facility.

“The one kilometer trip, we don’t have to do it anymore. It was a financial reason,” he said with a laugh. “We didn’t have it. Everything has changed now.”

Reddick made his first Pro Bowl this season and was named a second-team All-Pro. He plays a starring role for one of the top two teams in the nation and will play in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium, where his career nearly died out and was resurrected.

“I don’t think the story could have been written any better,” Reddick said.

Matthew was in attendance for the NFC Championship Game and got goosebumps thinking about how things turned out for his son.

“It’s all wrapped up right now,” Matthew said. “It makes us believers in everything. Hard work pays off. It does. The good guy finally won.”

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