PHILADELPHIA — The question had nothing to do with premier edge rusher Haason Reddick, but Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts couldn’t help but draw the focus on him.
After Philadelphia’s 31-7 throttling of the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s NFC title game, Hurts was asked about his own situational awareness at key moments and was in the middle of talking about football IQ and fundamentals when he shot.
“Haason Reddick, he’s been a bad guy all year,” Hurts said. “And we need that for the future.”
It’s hard to overstate Reddick’s impact against San Francisco. In the first half alone, he racked up two sacks, three pressings, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The 49ers’ fate was sealed midway through the first quarter when Reddick flew off the rim and created a streak sack by smacking the arm of Brock Purdy, who tore an ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow during the game. It knocked Purdy out of the game and rendered him ineffective when he was forced to return after suffering a concussion from Josh Johnson.
“You never want someone to get hit or hurt and I hope he’s okay,” said coach Nick Sirianni, “but it definitely changed the game.”
Reddick finished the regular season with 16 sacks — behind only his counterpart for the day, Nick Bosa — and was second in ESPN’s pass rush win rate (28%) behind Micah Parsons (30%). His 18.5 sacks created led the league. Still, he was not named a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year.
“Hey, S—” he said when asked about the snub. “I think my game said it today. That’s all I have to say about that.”
The respect Reddick, 28, has been seeking not just all season but his entire football life seemed to wash over him as he stood in the middle of the dressing room after the game in NFC Champion gear and was surrounded by a bevy of reporters was devoured, drawing the largest crowd in a room full of stars. Moments earlier, as green and white confetti fell from the sky and thousands of fans celebrated, the magnitude of the victory began to diminish. Reddick, a native of Camden, New Jersey, had just helped book his hometown team’s ticket to the Super Bowl with a top performance at Lincoln Financial Field — the same stadium where he earned his football trophies as a player for Temple.
And now he headed to the Super Bowl in Arizona, where his pro career took off and his NFL dream almost died.
“It’s crazy, man. Just blessings upon blessings upon blessings,” said Reddick. “I didn’t see this coming and now that it’s here I’m at a loss for words.”
MOST NFL SUCCESS Stories begin with tales of how they dominated the football field as kids, demonstrating skills that coaches believed great things were on the horizon.
Reddicks is not one of those stories.
When Reddick arrived at Haddon Heights High School, according to school athletic coach Tim O’Donnell, he was “just another skinny kid who has talent and athletic ability,” adding that Reddick “didn’t stand out” initially.
Reddick’s junior and senior seasons were derailed by injuries. He had to sit out his entire junior year with a ruptured growth plate 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 with 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 seat 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. Under Temple’s head coach Steve Addazio, finding your feet as a non-scholar athlete proved challenging. Addazio told Reddick after his freshman season that he would not have a place on the team going forward, several people close to Reddick said.
But by the time Addazio left to become the head coach at Boston College and Matt Rhule took over at Temple, Reddick was back on the team.
“Changed his life,” Lina said.
Reddick went on to compile 17.5 sacks and 47 tackles for the 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.
Reddick blossomed College as an outside rusher but was asked to play inside linebacker in his early seasons with the Cardinals. As the 2020 season rolled around, he was mentally exhausted.
Everything the inside linebacker position requires — reading keys, paying attention to guard pulls, intense focus on alignment — didn’t allow Reddick to play the kind of fast-paced, instinctive style of football that he’s naturally into from excellent.
“I remember having a conversation with my dad before I made the decision on whether or not to go back to the brink,” Reddick said in September. “I remember telling him I feel like if I don’t do that, I feel like if I don’t ask them to reset me, after that it’s either no football, no more NFL for me or I’ll just be a special teamer.”
Matthew’s advice was to “keep all the cards on the table.”
Early in the final year of his rookie contract, Reddick approached Davis and then-defense coordinator Vance Joseph about getting back out there. Since all parties had nothing to lose, the position was changed. An injury to Chandler Jones created an opportunity and Reddick conceded, amassing 12.5 sacks in 2020.
Despite this, Arizona has not re-signed him.
“It was very disappointing that we didn’t find a way to keep him,” said Arizona Linebackers coach Billy Davis. “As a coaching staff, we looked at the world of him as a worker, as a teammate. I have no idea about Haason. I wish we still had him.”
The Carolina Panthers signed Reddick to a one-year, $8 million contract that yielded 11 sacks in the offseason and Reddick, but found himself back as a free agent by the end of the season.
The Eagles pounced, signing him to a three-year, $45 million contract in March in hopes he would be the missing piece of defense coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s group — and he was.
Reddick has 19.5 sacks in 19 games, including the playoffs. Adding some weight in the off-season — he’s officially listed at 6ft 1, 240lbs — added another dimension to his game, allowing him to “take guys out of my way whenever I wanted to.” .
Despite this, Reddick was rarely mentioned among the top guys at his position. Those close to him suspect it’s a product of initially being an inside linebacker, changing teams multiple times, and playing in smaller markets before Philly.
“I’m not crying or begging for respect, but he has to be there,” Reddick said after a Dec. 11 win against the New York Giants as he hit double-digit sacks for the third straight season. “Three different teams, three different systems, three different head coaches, three different [defensive coordinators]. What does that tell you?”
After the Defensive Player of the Year finalists were released, Reddick tweeted, “Eventually this shit has to stop.”
SIGNING AT PHILADELPHIA was influenced by his desire to be closer to family. He wanted to come home, and there were many perks.
In October, he revisited his old high school to deliver an inspirational message to current players.
“I can tell the kids about hard work and dedication all the time, and it doesn’t matter. He came in and said the same thing to the guys, but it was great coming from a guy wearing an Eagles shirt and sitting in the same cafeteria you were sitting in,” Lina said.
“Our kids say, ‘I’m taller than him.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, he’s a lot better than you,” Lina said with a laugh. “This guy isn’t blessed with being huge, but he has a drive in him that most people can’t find.”
High crime rates can make Camden a dangerous place to grow up. To get Reddick out of the way when he came up, Matthew let him focus on football and training.
“We ran a mile to the gym, worked out and walked a mile back,” Matthew said. “It was a lot of conversation just to make sure he sees every area of life. He was mature from a young age.”
The tradition continues in the off-season, although they no longer run to the local training center.
“We don’t have to do the kilometer ride anymore. That was a financial reason,” he says, laughing. “We didn’t have it. Now everything has changed.”
Reddick made his first Pro Bowl that season and was named a second-team All-Pro. He plays a starring role for one of the top two teams in the country and will play at State Farm Stadium for Super Bowl LVII, where his career almost fizzled and was revived.
“I don’t think the story could have been written better,” Reddick said.
Matthew attended the NFC Championship Game and got goose bumps just thinking about how things turned out for his son.
“Right now everything is just closing,” Matthew said. “It just makes us believe in everything. Hard work pays off. It does. The good guy finally won.”