‘He’s been a bad guy’: How Philly’s Haason Reddick went from Temple Walk-on to NFL game-wrecker

'He's been a bad guy': How Philly's Haason Reddick went from Temple Walk-on to NFL game-wrecker

PHILADELPHIA — The question had nothing to do with the leading front runner haason reddickBut the Eagles quarterback jalen hurts he couldn’t help but turn the focus on him.

In the aftermath of Philadelphia’s 31-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game on Sunday, Hurts was asked about his own situational awareness at key moments and was talking about IQ and the fundamentals of soccer when he pivoted.

“Haason Reddick, he’s been a bad guy all year,” Hurts said. “And that’s what we need in the future.”

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 fate of the 49ers was sealed midway through the first quarter when Reddick went flying over the edge and generated a sack by hitting the arm of brock purdy, who in the play suffered a rupture of the ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow. He took Purdy out of the game and rendered him ineffective when he was forced to return after a joseph johnson concussion.

“You never want anybody to take a hit or get hurt, and I hope he’s okay,” coach Nick Sirianni said, “but he definitely changed the game.”

Reddick finished the regular season with 16 sacks, second only to his counterpart that day, Nick Bosa — and ranked second in ESPN’s pass race win rate metric (28%) behind micah parsons (30%). His 18.5 sacks created led the league. However, he was not named a finalist for defensive player of the year.

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

The respect that Reddick, 28, has been seeking not just all season, but his entire football life 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 largest crowd in a star-filled room. Moments earlier, with green and white confetti falling from the sky and thousands of cheering fans, the magnitude of the victory began to sink in. Reddick, a local kid from Camden, New Jersey, had just helped punch his hometown team’s ticket to the Super Bowl with an elite performance at Lincoln Financial Field, the same stadium where he earned his football skills playing for Temple. .

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

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

GREATEST NFL SUCCESS The stories begin with accounts of dominance on the soccer field as children, displaying a skill that made the coaches convinced that great things were on the horizon.

Reddick’s is not one of those stories.

By the time Reddick arrived at Haddon Heights High School, he was “just another skinny kid who has some talent and athletic ability,” according to the school’s athletic trainer Tim O’Donnell, adding that Reddick “didn’t stand out” initially.

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

But Reddick’s father, Raymond Matthew, was very 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 a spot for this kid?'” Haddon Heights coach Chris Lina said.

Reddick entered the team as a walk-on and began his career as a defensive back before transitioning to a running back as he gained weight. Progressing as an athlete without a scholarship proved challenging under Temple head coach Steve Addazio. Addazio told Reddick after his first season that he would not have a spot on the team in the future, several people close to Reddick said.

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

“It changed her life,” Lina said.

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

REDDICK FLOWERED IN in college as an outside running back, but was asked to play inside linebacker in his first few seasons with the Cardinals. By the time the 2020 season rolled around, he was mentally exhausted.

All that is required of the inside linebacker position — reading keys, keeping an eye out for guards, intense focus on lineup — kept Reddick from playing the fast, instinctive style of football at which he naturally excelled.

“I remember having a conversation with my father before making the decision of whether or not I wanted to go back to the limit,” Reddick said in September. “I remember telling him that I feel like if I don’t do this, I feel like if I don’t ask them to give me back, after this, either there’s no more football, there’s no more NFL for me or I’ll just be a special team.”

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

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Reddick approached Davis and then-defensive coordinator Vance Joseph about moving outside again. Since all parties had nothing to lose, he made the change of position. A chandler jones The injury opened a window of opportunity and Reddick cashed in, racking up 12.5 sacks in 2020.

Still, Arizona did not re-sign him.

“It was very disappointing that we didn’t find a way to keep him,” Arizona linebackers coach Billy Davis said. “As a coaching staff, we think of him as a worker, as a teammate. I don’t have a problem with Haason. I wish we still had him.”

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

The Eagles swooped in, signing a three-year, $45 million contract in March, hoping he would be the missing piece for defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s group, and he has been.

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

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

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

After the Defensive Player of the Year finalists were announced, skipping him, Reddick tweeted: “At some point this has to stop.”

SIGNS WITH PHILADELPHIA he was influenced by his desire to be closer to family. He wanted to come home, and there have been many advantages.

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

“I can tell kids all the time about hard work and dedication and it doesn’t matter. He came in and told the guys the same thing, but it was great coming from a guy who was wearing an Eagles jersey and sitting in the same place”. cafeteria you were sitting in,” Lina said.

“Our kids say, ‘I’m bigger than him.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, he’s so much better than you,'” Lina said with a smile. “That guy isn’t blessed with being huge in size, but he has 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 got close, Matthew made him focus on soccer and exercise.

“We’d run a mile to the gym, work out, and walk a mile back,” Matthew said. “It was a lot of talking, just to make sure he was looking at all walks of life. He was mature at a young age.”

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

“The mile ride, we don’t have to do it anymore. That 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 second team All-Pro. He is playing a leading role for one of the top two teams in the country and will be playing in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium, where his career nearly faded and was resurrected.

“I don’t think history has been written better,” Reddick said.

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

“Everything is coming full circle right now,” Matthew said. “It just makes us believe in everything. The hard work pays off. It does. The good guy finally won.”

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