For Cardinals, Temple LB Haason Reddick was ‘a pretty easy pick’
TEMPE, Ariz. — If the Arizona Cardinals were looking to add character with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, they arguably could not have done any better than the selection of linebacker Haason Reddick.
“We are elated with the addition of Haason Reddick,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said. “Certainly a guy that we were focused on from the beginning. One of the very best stories in this draft, when you talk about a guy who has overcome adversity and had a tremendous experience at Temple.”
After an injury-plagued high school career, Reddick joined Temple as a walk-on cornerback. As a redshirt freshman, in 2012, he was told by the coaching staff he would likely not have a place on the team the next season, but then Temple changed coaches and he was moved to the defensive line.
He did not receive a scholarship until after his junior season, and his mother Raelakia took out a loan for a meal plan for Haason so he could dine with the scholarship players.
“A roller coaster,” Reddick said of his road. “It was definitely some downs, there were some ups. There were good times and bad times. A lot of hard work that had to be put in.
“It was definitely a journey, but in the end everything worked out for the best and I’m an Arizona Cardinal.”
That he is, really, is not much of a surprise.
As a senior he notched 10.5 sacks to go along with an FBS-leading 22.5 tackles for loss and 65 tackles, while adding three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception. He followed it up with impressive performances at the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine, which led to him rising up draft boards.
An outside linebacker in college, the 6-foot-1, 237-pound Reddick projects more as an inside linebacker in the NFL, though the Cardinals see him as the kind of player who can play a variety of roles.
“The one thing that, when people ask that question, that’s the beauty of it — it doesn’t matter,” Keim said of where he sees Reddick lining up. “We’ll find a place for him. Whether it’s early as a rusher or as a stack-backer, he has got enough skills to be a differencemaker for us, and we’ll find the right place for him on our defense.”
At the Combine, Reddick ran a 4.52 40-yard dash, had a vertical leap of 36.5 inches and had a broad jump of 133 inches.
But the draft is littered with players who have athletic ability, and in terms of production, while he was near the top, Reddick was not necessarily the best prospect on the board. That’s where his background comes in, with his path to the NFL being one that has the Cardinals confident he will come in and work.
As Keim put it, Reddick has confidence and passion as well as an eternal chip that sits on his shoulder.
“I have no doubt he’ll be ready to go when he gets through baggage claim,” the GM said.
The Cardinals have in the past shown an affinity for players like that, as well as those who can play multiple positions.
Reddick, 22, said he felt like he was a bit under the radar heading into the Senior Bowl, but during that time he showed he could play inside linebacker after lining up on the outside in college. His ability to make the adjustment so quickly, he said, comes from being a student of the game and understanding football.
“Whatever position I ever played, I always tried to be my best at it,” he said. “When they told me I would be playing inside linebacker, the first thing in my mind was, ‘Hey, there goes new position that I have to go dominate.’ It’s nothing new to me.”
Reddick said bouncing between positions is easy for him, and at least in year one, head coach Bruce Arians said he should find a spot in sub-packages, with an immediate role in the nickel defenses.
“The flexibility he brings, and he is a dynamic player, high motor — when you put a high motor with a 4.46 guy at that size; inside rush, outside rush,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “He destroyed those guys at the Senior bowl in the one-on-one pass rushes.
“But what impressed me more was he’d never done it, but he went and covered the backs one-on-one and nobody ever caught a pass on him. And he’d never done it, so that’s when you knew you had something real special.”
Arians was hesitant to compare Reddick to anyone, but did offer up Denver Broncos star Von Miller, with the caveat that he knows Reddick is a bit smaller than the All-Pro.
Reddick, who said his biggest asset is his determination, reluctantly provided the same name.
It had come up with his new coach before.
“He asked me the same question, who do I look up to as a football player, who do I watch film on from an NFL level, and I told him,” Reddick said. “And he said he could see that.”
The idea of being compared to one of the game’s premier linebackers is not something that bothers or worries Reddick, saying he only worries about being the best player he can be.
That willingness to take on any challenge, he said, comes from his upbringing.
“I was raised this way, and then going through Temple, going to Temple and going to that program there, I would definitely say that I met some of the greatest competitors of my life at Temple, and that brought out the greatest competitor in me.”
The Cardinals are confident they added not only a talented player, but someone who will be a benefit to the locker room and work hard every day.
“We talk about don’t forget what you see on tape, and he checked that box because he had 10.5 sacks and he was disruptive as can be on Temple’s tape,” Keim said. “He checked every box at the Combine; his workout was off the charts. At the Senior Bowl he stepped in with all the top talent, played different positions, dominated.”
“So again, he checked every box, and when you talk about the character and all those sort of things, he was an A football character. All the connections we have at Temple, everybody signed off on this kid.
“I don’t want to say that it’s not a projection, because they’re all projections, but I felt like it was a pretty easy pick.”