The job was so big Haason Reddick needed two phones. They were fresh off the charger, juiced and ready for action.
He never thought he’d need two phones for this job.
Ten years ago, while most of the younger Eagles were choosing their Power Five school, Reddick was a hard-luck kid from Camden playing football for free at Temple and thinking about quitting the game. Three years ago, when most of the other 2017 first-rounders were getting their fifth-year option guaranteed, Reddick was wondering if he’d play beyond his fourth season.
That seems so long ago.
Now Reddick is a Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro who tied for second in the NFL with 16 sacks in the first year of a huge contract. He was the best player on the NFL’s No. 2 defense, which led the Eagles to the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
And none of that really mattered.
The playoffs mattered.
Reddick is in his sixth season, but he’ll play in his first playoff game Saturday night, when his Eagles — his Eagles, the team he plays for and the team he’s always loved — host the Giants in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
He was a free agent, and he could have played anywhere, but he signed for three years and $45 million in March.
He is literally living his dream.
“This thing has gone waaay better than expected,” Reddick said. “Waaaaay better.”
Remember, Reddick plays for his hometown team, so a lot of that $45 million will be spent on Saturday’s game.
Each player gets two complimentary passes, but extra tickets cost players between $200 and $300. Dozens of friends, relatives, and former teammates have hit him up for tickets. It was just after noon on Tuesday. Ticket requests were due in about 24 hours. He changed his shirt at his locker, grabbed his phones, and pushed his way past the press corps toward the shower-room door, where peace and privacy awaited.
Usually affable and available, he couldn’t stop on Tuesday. It was ticket time.
So, how many?
“Sorry. I don’t know. Man, it’s crazy. I’m working on that right now,” he said, holding up both phones. “I’m literally trying to deal with that. I’m trying to keep that limited.”
It is a wonderful problem to have, and, despite the stress it brought, he was happy to have it.
His path to this moment Tuesday defied all the odds several times.
A knee injury cost Reddick, a running back and safety, his junior year at Haddon Heights High in South Jersey, and he broke his leg four games into his senior season. The injuries kept him well off the recruiting radar of national college scouts.
He walked on at Temple, but he got little playing time his first two seasons and almost quit. His mother, Raelakia, talked him into staying. He stayed, and he flourished. As a senior in 2016, his 22½ tackles for losses led the American Athletic Conference, and his 9½ sacks and three forced fumbles were second.
Then, at the NFL combine, he ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash and broad-jumped 133 inches. At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, he rose from a third-round tweener out of a second-tier conference to an excellent hybrid linebacker/edge rusher prospect. The Cardinals took him 13th overall in the 2017 draft.
The Cardinals shoved him to inside linebacker, where he managed just 7½ sacks in his first three seasons. How bad did the pick look? Pittsburgh drafted T.J. Watt 30th out of Wisconsin, and he had 34½ sacks in those three seasons. Washington drafted Jonathan Allen 17th overall out of Alabama and he had 15 sacks in those three seasons playing just five games as a rookie because of injury. Even the Eagles looked smarter; they took defensive end Derek Barnett 14th overall out of Tennessee, and Barnett was considered a bust with 14 sacks in those three seasons.
The kid from Temple looked like an NFL walk-on, but fate and timing were on his side.
An injury to a Cardinals teammate early in 2020 forced them to let him play edge rusher again, where he regained his shine. Against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football, Reddick sacked Andy Dalton twice in a 38-10 win. Later that season he had a five-sack game against the Giants. He logged 10½ sacks in the last 11 games of 2020. He signed a one-year, $6 million deal with Carolina in 2021 and collected 11 more sacks, two of them against the Eagles in Game 5.
Howie Roseman was sold.
Hometown ties or not, it was not a popular signing. With so many other holes on defense back in March, the Eagles’ general manager took some grief when he outbid the market to land Reddick.
Now, with 16 sacks, Reddick is the biggest reason why Roseman should be Executive of the Year.
Wise young Owl
Reddick is an unusual star; he doesn’t hide. He generally spends the days before a game lounging on the oversized beanbag chair in front of his locker, scanning his phone, chatting with the other linebackers, and just being, well, normal.
These are not normal times. He’s always wanted to make it big in the NFL, and winning in the playoffs is how that happens, so he’s a little wired this week.
“I’m more than excited,” he admitted. “I’m anxious.”
He’s ready. A 17-game season can be draining, but the Eagles had the NFC’s bye, and Reddick took advantage.
“Last week, man, I just rested. Got off my feet,” he said. “Gave my body a chance at recovery.”
“This week?” he said, smiling. “This week, I lay it on the line.”
And with that he pushed through the door to the shower area and got to work on his two phones.