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Haason Reddick: Home is where the heart is

Haason Reddick is the cover story for this week's Gameday Magazine.
Haason Reddick is the cover story for this week's Gameday Magazine.

It was fitting that on a warm summer afternoon at Philadelphia's City Hall, delegations from both Philly and Camden were on hand to celebrate Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick.

After all, he's truly a native son of both.

The 27-year-old grew up in Camden and made strides as a walk-on across the river at Temple University. On the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, he was selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In 2022, he signed a three-year deal to come home and play for the Eagles.

His family never left the region. And they were present at City Hall on June 10 with hundreds of others to welcome Reddick home.

"He's an outstanding person who knows where he came from and knows what he has to do to give back," Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen said. "I see his father, Ray, over there. We go back a long way. To see Haason's growth since his youth, it's exciting. We're looking forward to being behind him now that he's a Philadelphia Eagle."

"It's always nice to have a fine young man come home and play for us," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said. "And we need an edge rusher to get to the quarterback, especially one with some speed."

Reddick will provide that.

Over the previous two seasons, Reddick is fifth in the NFL with 23.5 sacks and fourth in tackles for loss with 27. He's also tied for third in the NFL in that period with eight forced fumbles.

The 6-foot-1, 235-pound linebacker doesn't want to be labeled as a linebacker. In his Twitter bio, he writes that he's a "Weapon for the Philadelphia Eagles." On the eve of his first season in Philly, he's prepared to be a leader and a dynamic playmaker for a defense looking to take the next step.

"I'm excited. I feel like I fit and can be a big piece in this defense. I'm loving the team and I'm loving the coaching staff," Reddick said.

"I'm in such a great situation right now. I'm happy to be home."

Reddick's football journey started in Camden's youth leagues before he played at Haddon Heights High School. A safety and running back at the time, Reddick played just four games in his junior and senior seasons of high school due to a femur fracture. He was left without any scholarship options.

He walked on at Temple University in 2012 and redshirted his freshman year. His prospects looked bleak before current Panthers Head Coach Matt Rhule took over the Temple program in 2013. Reddick was moved to outside linebacker and found success on special teams.

Reddick's strength and quickness proved to be an asset in getting to the quarterback. He earned a tightly contested starting defensive end role in 2015 and broke out for 46 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and five sacks.

Ahead of his senior year, Reddick was awarded a single-digit jersey number, an honor bestowed on only the toughest Temple players who stand out as leaders. He recorded 65 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks as the Owls won the American Athletic Conference, the school's first conference title since 1967.

A call to the NFL seemed inevitable. Standout performances at the 2017 Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine made Reddick one of the fastest risers in the prospect pool.

The 2017 NFL Draft happened to be in Philadelphia, right on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. With his mother, Raelakia, at his side, Reddick was selected 13th overall in the first round by the Arizona Cardinals.

The Eagles picked 14th. That wasn't lost on Reddick.

"It was close in 2017," Reddick said. "Just one pick before."

Without the freakish size of most defensive ends, the Cardinals transitioned Reddick to an off-ball linebacker role. He had trouble finding his footing and didn't put up the numbers expected out of a first-round pick. He started just five games in his third season and Arizona declined his fifth-year option in 2020.

With his career at stake, Reddick moved to the edge in his fourth season, a role in which he'd succeeded in college. That success translated.

He recorded team highs with 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles. He even set a franchise record when he amassed five sacks and three forced fumbles in one game against the New York Giants in North Jersey.

Reddick signed with the Panthers in 2021 as a free agent, reuniting with Rhule and several of his Temple coaches and teammates. He proved that 2020 wasn't a fluke by recording 11 sacks and 18 quarterback hits. He brought down Jalen Hurts twice in the Eagles' 21-18 win in Carolina.

His NFL journey, like his experience at Temple, was a battle to prove himself. He was rewarded with a lucrative three-year contract to come home.

"It's a special thing because I never thought this would happen," Reddick said. "But now that I'm here, it's just surreal.

"I've been blessed to be where I'm at right now. It took a lot of hard work to get here, but now that I'm here, it's about sharing my blessings with other people."

His mother took out a loan to afford a meal plan for Reddick while he went to Temple without a scholarship. When he felt guilty and wanted to give up, his mother pushed him to keep chasing his dream.

After going pro, he bought Raelakia a Mercedes-Benz in 2018 for Mother's Day. Shortly after signing with the Eagles, he bought her a new home.

"I'm just happy I can be around her, take care of her, and be closer to her so she can experience this," Reddick said. "She played such a big role in getting me to where I am today. So, for her to be able to reap the benefits of the work she put in, it's beautiful."

Get an exclusive look at Haason Reddick's first day at the NovaCare Complex.

Playing at Lincoln Financial Field, Reddick went from walk-on to team leader at Temple and found his way onto the NFL radar. Reddick was still a walk-on while reaching all-conference status in his junior season. He finally got on scholarship as a senior. Reddick has visited his alma mater multiple times to meet with players and provide guidance. He gave multiple players his personal cell phone number at a visit set up by new Temple Head Coach Stan Drayton.

"He loves Temple, and he wants to do whatever he's able to do for Temple," Drayton said. "When he speaks, they listen. And he's going to speak nothing but the truth."

"We're trying to get the program back on track," Reddick said. "I'm just glad I can be a part of that."

Off the field, Reddick wants to give back and be "a man of the people." He donated $15,000 worth of toys to 200 Camden families last December. He's held multiple football camps in Camden, including his first as an Eagle in early July. His community work, part of his many ventures with his father, Ray, has earned him the key to the City of Camden and multiple honors from Philadelphia.

The small things truly make Reddick feel at home. He's been able to spend more time with his younger siblings, for whom he wants to be a role model. He's made more frequent visits to his local Wawa and his favorite cheesesteak spot, Max's in North Philadelphia.

Reddick is a hometown kid with two hometowns. Standing in front of officials from both cities and looking out at a crowd of fans and cheerleaders from both the Eagles and Temple, Reddick wanted everyone to know he's back home – and he's ready to work.

"These people are my people," Reddick said. "To be back in the community and around some genuine love, to play for the Eagles, and know that these people are supporting me, it means everything."

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