Temple's Reddick: from walk-on to standout

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Temple defensive lineman Haason Reddick during practice August 16, 2016. Reddick, originally a walkon, earned a scholarship this year and was voted one of the toughest players on the team by teammates and given a single-digit jersey number.

Temple redshirt senior Haason Reddick had reached the lowest point. He was a walk-on whose services were no longer desired.

Reddick would eventually stay, and Temple is much better for that decision. A 6-foot-1, 235-pound defensive end who runs more like the safety he used to be, Reddick has enjoyed a breakout season, leading all Football Bowl Championship players with 18 tackles for loss.

Temple (7-3 overall, 5-1 American Athletic Conference) has a bye this week but will win the East Division title with victories in the final two games against Tulane and East Carolina.

Reddick is not only a candidate for the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year award, he continues to polish a resume for the next level, where he is seen as a linebacker prospect.

All this from a player whose high school career was marred by injury, when he played only four games his senior season at Haddon Heights.

"I've made the best of my chance here," Reddick said recently.

Reddick came to Temple in 2012 and redshirted that first season under head coach Steve Addazio. He was told by the coaching staff after season that there wouldn't be a spot for him.

Then Addazio left for Boston College, and Matt Rhule took over as head coach. Francis Brown, who was a graduate assistant under Addazio, was hired by Rhule as the defensive backs coach.

Brown has a long history with Rhule. The former Camden High star was an all-conference cornerback at Western Carolina, where Rhule one of the assistant coaches.

Brown's history with Reddick was also a long one. Reddick is from Camden, and Brown used to watch him play youth football.

"I told Coach Rhule that this kid is a football player," said Brown, who is now Temple's associate head coach/defensive backs. "He is athletic. He can do 10 back-flips in a row if you asked him, and he is so competitive."

Rhule didn't need much urging.

"If Francis tells me something, I usually go with it," Rhule said. "Right away we could see how tough a kid he was, and he was a really good athlete."

So Reddick was given a second chance. But instead of staying in the secondary he was first moved to linebacker and then to defensive end.

Reddick continued to progress, appearing in 18 games and making six starts during his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons. Last year, Reddick took a major step.

He appeared in 14 games, making 12 starts for a 10-4 Temple team that tied a single-season school record for wins. Reddick was was ninth in the AAC with 12 1/2 tackles for loss and earned honorable mention all-conference honors.

He earned something more valuable after the season - a scholarship.

"It was great because it would save my family money," he said.

Most of all, it showed he had truly arrived. This season, he has hit another gear, with 8 1/2 sacks, tied for first in the AAC.

"I am happy for him because it shows kids who don't play much in high school, who walk on, that they can succeed if they stay with it," Brown said.

Brown adds that he likes Reddick's pro potential but says that will all take care of itself. "I want to see him dominate at this level for now," Brown said.

For now, he's seeing that happen on a weekly basis with the accolades serving as evidence.

Reddick has been named AAC defensive player of the week and was added to the midseason Chuck Bednarik watch list for the top defensive player in the country. More fitting, he is a semifinalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, given every year to the most outstanding player who began his college career as a walk-on.

"It's great to be recognized," he said. "I can't take full credit, because my coaching staff, my parents and teammates have really pushed me."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard