The NFC Championship game was about to begin, and Matt Rhule sat down with his former Temple coaches along with his current Nebraska staff to make one of them make an impact he never should have.
Haason Reddick was not a five-star or four-star recruit out of New Jersey, a state known for providing its share of high school talent to college football’s biggest programs. Reddick was a walk-on — a neighborhood name for a non-star recruit — and when Rhule inherited him at Temple in 2013, he needed an assistant coach from Reddick’s hometown, Camden, to keep him on the team. So you can talk to him.
Rowell had just left Tom Coughlin’s staff with the Giants, so he knew what an NFL player looked like. That image didn’t jive with Reddick, who arrived at Temple as a 185-pound defensive back who missed most of his Haddon Heights High career with a fractured femur one year and a torn meniscus the next.
Nearly a decade later, on the same Lincoln Financial Field grass he owned as a terror for Rowell’s Owls, Reddick sent the Eagles to the Super Bowl with a performance that surpassed the box score that Credited him with two sacks, one forced fumble. and a recovered fumble.
Reddick effectively ended the 49ers’ passing game with his first-quarter hit on Brock Purdy, leaving the quarterback with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow and what he described as heavy Advertised as a weight fight, it didn’t quite live up to it.
“And that’s when he really impressed me, watching him completely dominate the NFC Championship Game,” Rowell told The Post. “It’s one thing to see him make a play on the red zone channel, but it’s another thing to just watch him take over the game. … That’s exactly what he did his senior year and we won the championship.
American Athletic Conference Championship – Temple’s first conference title in nearly half a century. Redick would finish that 10-4 season with 9.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles.
“His junior year he was projected as maybe a seventh-round pick or maybe a free agent,” Rowell recalled. “It seems like his jump from a seventh-round pick to a first-round pick happened overnight, but it really wasn’t overnight with all the sacrifices that were made.”
Ridick’s mother, Raelkea, who took out a loan to pay for her son’s meal plan so he could eat with his teammates on scholarship until he earned an income of his own.
Temple coach Steve Addazio didn’t see a role or future for the new Reddick on his team, but after Addazio left for Boston College, Fran Brown, a holdover assistant and former Camden High quarterback, introduced the incoming rule. Said Redick’s athleticism and tenacity make him an excellent position. .
A former walk-on at Penn State, Rowell wasn’t a hard sell. But nothing has come easy for Reddick on his slow march to stardom. He called his mother a lot during difficult times.
“She was a guidance counselor, a therapist for me,” Reddick said.
Raylakia’s reaction to whatever troubled her son was always the same.
“We are warriors,” he told her. “We’ll stick it out and carry on.”
“And that’s what I did,” Hassan said.
Reddick credits his father, Raymond Matthews, a former Division II college player, with being a valuable source of support during his Temple journey. Hasson got bigger and better, and his eventual move from off-the-ball linebacker to defensive end spawned a talent that went from 2-10 in Rhule’s first year to conference champions in Reddick’s final year. Helped.
“He got a scholarship and he matured,” Rowell said. “When he stepped on the field his senior year, no matter who we played, he was the best player on the field. … He’s been a blur all year. He dominated every game.”
Rowell recalled Tuesday night’s meeting with his senior before a big Friday night game against South Florida, which embarrassed Temple last year. A lot of players were talking before Redick intervened, facing his teammates and issuing this warning:
“We’re going to lock up and play our best game, or you’ll have to see me later.”
There was silence in the room. Three nights later, Temple defeated USF at the Link by a score of 46-30.
Reddick ran a 4.52 40 at the combine, and was taken 13th overall by the Cardinals, one spot ahead of his hometown Eagles. (The draft was also held in Philly.) Arizona moved the 237-pound linebacker inside for his first three seasons before Reddick bought Kliff Kingsbury to reverse someone else’s mistake and get him back on the edge in 2020. Agreed to go.
Playing there, Redick said, “allows my instincts and my skills to take over completely and allows me to play football without thinking.”
He responded with 12.5 sacks, including five against the Giants, then signed with Rowell in Carolina, where he finished 2021 with 11 sacks. The Eagles came in with a three-year, $45 million offer at a time when the Panthers were trying. Save money for the Deshaun Watson deal that never happened, and Rowell agonized over losing his guy.
But Redick said he fulfilled a childhood dream “when I put that pen to paper” and signed with the Eagles. He was getting to play across the river from Camden, a 15-minute drive from a hometown he still supports through charity work and appearances.
“I come from a community that’s broken, poor,” he said. “So one of my goals outside of football is to build our community, develop it, improve it and help it survive.
“Who would have ever thought a kid from Camden would be in this position?”
He has 19.5 sacks in 19 regular season and postseason games this year. Now Redick adds to that total against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs at his old home in Arizona. An underdog player gets a shot at winning the Super Bowl while representing an underdog city.
“This thing feels like a movie script,” Reddick said.
It just needs a happy ending.
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