Haason Reddick thought he was going to be a “regular college student” when he got accepted to Temple.
Injuries ended his junior and senior seasons at Haddon Heights High School in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, limiting the highlight reel he could show college coaches. After some prodding from his father and a call to family friend and Temple’s former defensive backs coach Francis Brown, Reddick walked onto the team in 2012.
Five years later, Reddick is poised to be a first-round pick in this month’s NFL draft.
“I came so far,” Reddick said at Temple’s Pro Day in March. “Literally from the bottom. Two injuries in high school … to walking on, being overlooked, to finally getting my chance to play football again. Now I’m being able to go play in the NFL. That’s just amazing.”
CBSSports.com ranks Reddick as the top outside linebacker in the draft and the 13th-best prospect overall. He is a consensus first-round pick in several mock drafts.
Three Temple players have been drafted in the first round of past NFL drafts.
Offensive lineman John Rienstra was drafted ninth overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1986. Running back Paul Palmer was selected 19th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs the following year. It took 24 years for the Owls to have another first-round draft pick. The New York Jets selected defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson 30th overall in 2011.
“He’s rare,” former Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich said of Reddick. “You see all these guys talking about, ‘scouts haven’t seen anything like him in a long time,’ especially out of Temple. Haason’s just a prime example of a kid that’s just worked so hard to get where he is right now.”
Reddick recorded 15.5 sacks in the past two seasons, including 10.5 sacks last year. He models his game after Denver Broncos all-pro linebacker Von Miller. During his six-year NFL career, Miller has reached double-digit sack totals five times and won the Super Bowl MVP award in 2016. Reddick used to wear No. 58, Miller’s number, before he earned a single-digit jersey last year.
“He’s one of my favorite NFL athletes,” Reddick said. “Just how hard and aggressive, how physical he is. The athleticism he has. He’s such a great player.”
Matakevich, who now plays for the Steelers, said he sees Reddick playing outside linebacker and defensive end in the NFL.
One of the comparisons Reddick has garnered during the draft process is Matakevich’s teammate, Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier.
“Some of the stuff he’s able to do on the field, you sort of just scratch your head and you’re like, ‘How the hell did you just do that, dude?’” Matakevich said of Shazier.
“I think that’s what Haason’s going to do,” he added. “He’s going to make plays wherever you put him. His athletic ability is just unbelievable. That’s what makes him so special and makes him do these ridiculous things.”
Reddick played running back and safety in high school at Haddon Heights. He walked-on to Temple as a cornerback. Then he spent time at linebacker, and eventually worked his way toward the defensive line, where he played the last two seasons. His athleticism and versatility is what is so attractive to NFL teams.
During the scouting combine, the NFL Network played videos of Reddick rushing the passer, dropping into coverage and stopping the run. He even tried to become one of the Owls’ kick returners during training camp last summer.
Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman ranked Reddick as one of the Top 20 ‘Freaks’ in college football in October. The list included “guys who possess some rare physical abilities that wow folks inside their programs.”
Reddick displayed why at the NFL combine. He ran a 4.52 40-yard dash and broad-jumped 133 inches, which were both tops among defensive lineman.
“Haason has always had the talent,” former defensive coordinator Phil Snow said last season. “He can run, jump and all that, and it finally clicked this year.”
Last season, Reddick posted 22.5 tackles for loss, which ranked third in the Football Bowl Subdivision and was the second-highest total in Temple history.
Reddick wasn’t even on scholarship until the start of last year. His mom took out a loan for a meal plan so he wouldn’t feel left out when he ate with scholarship players.
“The kid’s journey has been unbelievable,” Matakevich said. “His story and his path is just ridiculous.”
Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.