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Haason Reddick’s ‘movie-script’ journey from Temple walk-on to dominant Eagles force

The NFC Championship game was about to start, and Matt Rhule sat down with his former Temple coaches on his current Nebraska staff to watch one of their own make the kind of impact he was never supposed to make.

Haason Reddick was not a five-star or four-star recruit out of a state, New Jersey, known for delivering its share of high school talent to the biggest programs in college football. Reddick was a walk-on — a neighborly name for a no-star recruit — and when Rhule inherited him at Temple in 2013, he needed an assistant coach from Reddick’s hometown, Camden, to talk him into keeping him on the team.

Rhule had just left Tom Coughlin’s staff with the Giants, so he knew what an NFL player looked like. That image did not match up with Reddick, who had arrived at Temple as a 185-pound defensive back who had lost most of his Haddon Heights High career to 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 pass-rushing terror for Rhule’s Owls, Reddick sent the Eagles to the Super Bowl with a performance that transcended a box score that credited him with two sacks, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble.

Reddick effectively terminated 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 reducing what was advertised as a heavyweight fight to a total mismatch.

“And that’s when it really hit me, watching him absolutely dominate the NFC Championship game” Rhule told The Post. “It’s one thing seeing a highlight on the RedZone channel of him making a play, but it was another thing just seeing him take over that game. … He did the exact same thing his senior year and we won a championship.”

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The American Athletic Conference championship — Temple’s first conference title in nearly half a century. Reddick would finish that 10-4 season with 9.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss.

“His junior year he was probably portrayed as a seventh-round pick or maybe a free agent,” Rhule recalled. “It seems his jump from seventh-round pick to first-round pick happened overnight, but it really wasn’t overnight with all the sacrifices that were made.”

Starting with those made Reddick’s mother, Raelakia, 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 one of his own.

Temple coach Steve Addazio saw no role or future for the freshman Reddick on his team, but after Addazio left for Boston College, a holdover assistant and former Camden High quarterback, Fran Brown, told the incoming Rhule that Reddick’s athleticism and toughness merited a roster spot.

Matt Rhule

A former walk-on at Penn State, Rhule wasn’t a hard sell. But nothing came easily for Reddick on his slow march to stardom. He called his mother a lot during the tough times.

“She was kind of a guidance counselor, a therapist for me,” Reddick said.

Raelakia’s response to whatever troubled her son was always the same.

“We’re fighters,” she told him. “We’re going to stick this one out and keep going.”

“And that’s what I did,” Haason said.

Reddick credited his father, Raymond Matthew, a former Division II college player, for being a valuable source of support during his Temple journey. Haason kept getting bigger and better, and his eventual move from off-the-ball linebacker to defensive end unleashed a talent that helped the Owls go from 2-10 in Rhule’s first year to conference champs in Reddick’s final year.

“He got his scholarship and a maturity came over him,” Rhule said. “When he stepped on the field his senior year, no matter who we played, he was the best player on the field. … That whole year is a blur. He dominated every game he played in.”

Rhule recalled a Tuesday night meeting with his senior before a big Friday night game against South Florida, which had embarrassed Temple the previous year. A lot of players were doing a lot of talking before Reddick interrupted, faced his teammates and issued this warning:

“We are going to be locked in and play our best game, or you will have to see me afterward.”

The room turned deafeningly silent. Three nights later, Temple beat USF at the Linc by a 46-30 score.


Reddick ran a 4.52 40 at the combine, and got drafted 13th overall by the Cardinals, one spot ahead of his hometown Eagles. (The draft was held in Philly, too.) Arizona moved the 237-pound linebacker inside for his first three seasons before Reddick convinced Kliff Kingsbury to reverse someone else’s mistake and move him back to the edge in 2020.

Playing there, Reddick said, “allows my instincts and my abilities to fully take over and allows me to play football without even thinking.”

He responded with 12.5 sacks, including five against the Giants, then signed with Rhule in Carolina, where he finished with 11 sacks in 2021. The Eagles came in with a three-year, $45 million offer at a time when the Panthers were trying to save money for a Deshaun Watson deal that never happened, and it pained Rhule to lose his guy.

Super Bowl

But Reddick said he fulfilled a childhood dream “when I put that pen to the paper” and signed with the Eagles. He was getting to play across the river from Camden, 15 minutes from a home city he still supports through charitable giving and appearances.

“I come from a community that’s kind of broken down, impoverished,” he said. “So one of my goals outside of football is to build up my community, uplift it, improve it, and help it survive.

“Who would have ever thought that a kid from Camden would be in this position?”

He has 19.5 sacks this year in 19 regular-season and postseason games. Now Reddick gets to add to that total against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in his old building in Arizona. An underdog player gets a shot to win the Super Bowl while representing an underdog town.

“This thing feels like a movie script,” Reddick said.

It only requires a happy ending.