It’s a pretty rare occurrence when Temple University produces a first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
In fact, before Thursday when the Arizona Cardinals selected former Temple linebacker Haason Reddick with the 13th overall pick, it had only happened three times.
What makes Reddick’s story even more special is how he started his college career in Philadelphia: as a walk-on.
Reddick was a big part of the defense that helped awaken a long-dormant program under head coach Matt Rhule, who took a job at Baylor following the 2016 season.
“I love Haason,” Rhule told Doug and Wolf Friday on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station. “He’s everything that’s right with college football. He’s tough, he’s hard-nosed. He got his degree and played so hard for us and so well for us and helped us turn this program around.
“I know he’s going to be a great addition to an already great organization in the Arizona Cardinals.”
College coaches beam with pride when one of their players goes pro, especially as first-round picks, and Rhule is no exception. He gushed about the 235-pound linebacker.
“He’s relentless. In a day and age where guys on defense don’t run to the football anymore because of all the tempo, and guys don’t play hard all the time, Haason set the standard for our defense,” Rhule said. “We were third in the country in defense and he led the way. He ran to the football, he made impact plays, he was physical.
“Even when he knew he was going to get drafted high, he was still running down on the kickoff team. He is a special, special player in terms of how hard he plays and how explosive he can be.”
Reddick’s 22.5 tackles for loss in 2016 tied for the third-most in the country for a Temple defense that ranked behind only Michigan and Alabama in yards allowed, yielding just 282.5 per contest. The Owls also shut out three opponents, including back-to-back blankings of conference foes Connecticut and Tulane. Reddick had 13 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks while adding a pass breakup and a forced fumble in the two games.
How will Reddick be used? Rhule believes the Cardinals can utilize him in a number of ways.
“You’re really kind of getting versatility, you’re getting two players in one,” the coach said. “He’s a guy who can play off the ball and be a weakside inside linebacker and use that 4.5 speed to cover guys out of the backfield and at the same time, I think he can be a tremendous weapon blitzing. Not many running backs are going to be able to block this kid.
“And he’s a great nickel rusher. You get into the sub packages — he can put his hand in the ground and his burst and athleticism and getting up the field are elite, even at that level, so I think they’ll use him probably as a combination off-the-ball linebacker, but also knowing they have a tremendous nickel pass rusher as well.”
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