PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID MICHAEL HOWARTH

There is a vision at work here, and in fairness to Haason Reddick, it is a series of visions. With the stroke of a pen used in March to sign a 3-year contract to play with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reddick’s life changed and his purpose(s) became crystal clear.

On the football field, he has every intention of becoming “a weapon of mass destruction for the Eagles’ defense,” Reddick says. He plans to be a pass-rushing force who helps transform a Philadelphia defense that in 2021 ranked 31 (out of 32) in quarterback sacks in the NFL. Reddick – one of the premier pass rushers in the league who has registered a total of 23 1/2 quarterback sacks in his recent seasons in Arizona (2020) and Carolina (2021) – is a player who performs with relentless effort, a rare burst of fury off the line of scrimmage and a rare combination of power to speed. “This is a special player,” Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman says of Reddick. “We wanted special, and Haason brings that element to our defense. He’s going to bring it every play.”

Born and raised in South Jersey, Reddick hasn’t played in front of his friends and family since his days at Temple University, so he’s got the home folks excited. “This is a high you don’t come down from,” says his father, Ray. “All of it – playing college football, being a first-round draft pick [with Arizona in 2017], seeing him in the NFL and now coming home to play with the Eagles – it’s an unbelievable feeling. You know how people talk about their dreams coming true? This is a dream come true for all of us – our family, our friends, our entire community. Everybody wants to share in this and that makes it even more special.”

The City of Camden is something Reddick has taken a great interest in, so much so that he and Mayor Vic Carstarphen have shared ideas on how to revolutionize the downtown area. Reddick sees a day when Camden is a combination of high-end residential living with a pristine view of the Philadelphia skyline and a central business hub for the region. “It has unlimited potential,” Reddick says. “There is a lot of work to be done here. We’re just starting.”

Reddick is just starting a new phase of his life both professionally and personally. His is a story well known: He played at Haddon Heights High School and while he was a standout physically, Reddick had trouble staying healthy to the point where his coach, Ralph Schiavo, wondered if colleges would have enough game action on film to potentially offer Reddick a scholarship.

“Here’s a kid who probably had less than 100 high school snaps in his career, so when it came time to put stuff on film, he was really worried. He said, ‘I don’t have enough. No one’s going to find me,’” says Schiavo, who was named the school’s head football coach prior to Reddick’s 12th-grade season. “Haason suffered a knee injury and didn’t play at all in his junior year, so the first time I saw him was the summer of his senior year. That’s when I got the head coaching job.”

Haason Reddick held a football camp for Camden youth this summer.

“I saw him in the weight room, and he trained hard. He was a leader for us in the weight room. He was great through the summer on the field, and then he was great through our first 4 games. He suffered the injury to his leg and didn’t play the rest of the season.”

“But the talent was there,” Schiavo adds. “You could see he was something special. It was just a matter of staying on the field and working hard and getting the most out of that talent.”

Eventually, of course, that happened – first as a walk-on player who earned a scholarship at Temple University, and then as a first-round draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals. Reddick is now a rising star in the NFL, and the Eagles intend to move him around the defense and allow him to use his natural quarterback-devouring skills. But what makes this an even more special story is the impact Reddick can have on a region that looks up to its heroes. Reddick isn’t just about football here. He wants to give back.

He wants to make a difference for the next wave of kids, including his 4 younger brothers.

“I’m not interested in just saying it and not doing it,” Reddick says as he stands in the hallway at the NovaCare Complex, a morning of practice complete and his on-the-go lunch in hand. “I want to be a mentor in every sense of the word. I’m here to put in the work. I want the kids to know there’s more out there than just being in the streets and doing nonsense. I want to show them there is another way out. You just have to find something you have passion for and then go apply yourself. It doesn’t matter what it is, just get out there and see that life is great. Life is beautiful.”

Reddick is taking his in-the-community game to another level and much of that has to do with his work to build Camden. This is all very much in the early stages, but both Reddick and Mayor Carstarphen share the same hopes and dreams – ambitious ones, to be sure.

“Nobody gave Haason anything. He had to earn it all … Now he’s coming home to serve his community. I think there is nothing more honorable than that.” – Camden Mayor Vic Carstarphen

Haason Reddick tours Camden with Police Chief Gabriel Rodriguez and Mayor Vic Carstarphen, Photo: Camden County

“I’ve got a big vision, man,” Reddick says. “New buildings, new homes, clean streets. Crime has been down, but I want crime to go way, way down. It’s hard to do, and I know that. It’s just the beginning for me, putting action behind the vision. That’s the most important thing – trying to make some change, no matter how significant it is or how insignificant it may seem. We need change, and I’m here to help with that change.”

That makes Carstarphen elated. The Mayor has long known Reddick’s father and has gotten to know his mother recently, so pairing the young Eagles star with the city brings visibility and clout.

“Haason has been as active as possible in the past, but he was in Arizona and then Carolina so it was limited as to how much he could be here. Now it seems he really wants to be hands-on as much as he can,” Carstarphen says. “We talked about how important it is for our kids and our families to see Haason here and in the trenches. We’ve seen a lot of growth in development in Camden in the last several years and Haason wants to help in that growth, whether that’s putting together some programming for our youth or supporting some initiatives or creating new programs. We’ve had good dialogue, and it’s just wholesome to see an entire family embrace our city.”

“I want our community to look at Haason and say, ‘Look at him. Hard work really does pay off.’ Nobody gave Haason anything. He had to earn it all – he walked on at Temple University and made himself into a first-round draft pick. Now he’s coming home to serve his community. I think there is nothing more honorable than that. Think about this: Every week we’re going to watch him playing for the Eagles, a team we already love. Every Sunday we’re going to be right there with him. Then we will see him during the week in our community, working with us to make things better. Can you imagine how proud that makes us feel as a city, how proud that makes me as a mayor, how proud that makes kids feel that they can reach out and touch him and know him and work alongside him to make our schools and our future better?”

For Reddick, he is in his hometown, playing with the team he has always loved, and his visions, his dreams – they’re all coming true.

Truly coming true.

“Coming back and being here only a few months, it’s gone beyond my wildest dreams,” Reddick says. “Everything I’ve worked for is right in front of me and I just know it’s going to turn out great through hard work and dedication. None of this is going to be easy but, man, I am so excited to get it done and make everyone so happy.”


Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has covered every Eagles game since 1987 and is seen and heard throughout the year on television, radio and Eagles coverage everywhere. You can hear his Eagles Live Podcast on iTunes.

September 2022
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