Motivated by doubters, Eagles' Haason Reddick puts together monster season

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Motivated by doubters, Reddick puts together monster season originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

He’s always been a perfectionist. As far back as he can remember.

Twenty years ago, as a middle schooler in South Jersey, Haason Reddick had lousy handwriting.

So he worked on it and worked on it and worked on it until he had the best handwriting in his class.

“I actually practice my penmanship,” Reddick said at his locker Wednesday. “I always get compliments, ‘Oh you have such nice handwriting.’ But I actually worked on my penmanship. I had a young lady back in middle school who had wrote out each A, B and C and then I would go down the paper and, this is how she wrote it, I just tried to mimic it until my penmanship looked like hers.”

Reddick is still searching for perfection. Only now, rushing the quarterback has replaced handwriting.

With 16 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 23 quarterback hits and five forced fumbles, Reddick has put himself firmly into the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, an award that hasn’t gone to an Eagle since Reggie White won it in 1987 – some 35 years ago.

And it all started with some wise advice he got from his dad: Whatever you do, be the best you can.

“Why wouldn’t you be?” Reddick said. “Especially in a career like this where you’re competing against other people who are trying to be the best.

“My father always said, ‘If you’re going to do something, give it your all and try to be the best at it.’ And that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m not claiming it or dubbing myself the best, but I’m working hard to try to be, and if anything just be the best football player Haason Reddick can be.”

It’s sure paying off.

Reddick’s 16 sacks are 2nd-most in the NFL – 1 ½ behind the 49ers’ Joey Bosa – and 6th-most in Eagles history, second-most since White left for Green Bay after the 1992 season.

After being held without a sack the first two weeks of the season, Reddick has an NFL-high 16 in the last 14 games.

His current streak of two sacks in three straight games is tied for 4th-longest in NFL history.

What’s clicked in his sixth season?

Remember, this is a guy who had 7 ½ sacks in his first three NFL seasons. He has that beat in the last five games.

“I feel like I’m getting to that point where I’m really understanding how to rush tackles and also having some great pieces alongside me, some great players as well,” he said.

“But I feel like I’m close to figuring out how to really rush passers in the NFL. The pass blockers here are way better than they were in college and that’s the difference. Every player has to adjust to something. Adjusting to the game, adjusting to the speed, adjusting to the certain level of knowledge you need to play on a high level, and for me at my position it’s figuring out how to rush passers at a very high level and I feel that’s what I’m getting better at.

“It’s like anything. The more time on task you have, the more experience you have doing it naturally, you get better at it. It’s like drawing, painting, working on your penmanship, all type of stuff. Being a baby. Walking. Learning how to tie your shoes. The more you do it the better you get at it and that’s what I just feel like is going on.”

It seems so long ago that Reddick was defending himself after opening the season with no sacks, no QB hits and just three tackles in season-opening wins over the Lions and Vikings.

But that’s what happens when you sign a three-year, $45 million contract. Everything you do is going to be scrutinized.

Even after two games.

“Some people just talk too early,” he said. “Second week of the season and people were already saying this, that and the third.

“I don’t feed into it. I’ve been through it already with people calling me a bust back out in my days in Arizona. I just keep going, like I always have, which has been able to put me in the position right now.”

Along with Bosa, Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons and Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith, Reddick has to be one of the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year.

That’s not foremost on his mind right now – there is a No. 1 seed to try and lock up this weekend – but he’d be lying if he said he hasn’t followed the conversation, which has centered on Bosa and Parsons.

“I’m active on Twitter, on social media, like everybody else is, I see what’s being said,” he said. “I just keep working. That’s all I can do. Because at the end of the day, what I believe isn’t the case. I can’t go out there and decide that award for myself. There’s factors that I can’t control.

“Whether they decide they want to show a blind eye to what I’ve been doing or if they want to give recognition that’s up to (the voters). The people who know, they know. The people that know, they know. Me, I’m just going to try to play the best football that I can and that’s all that matters to me.”

So much of Reddick’s motivation comes from proving people wrong.

Much like Brandon Graham, he’s driven by the early “1st-round bust tag” and by coaches and general managers – and fans - who didn’t believe in him or gave up on him.

Right now, he’s proving a lot of people wrong.

“I just believe in my work, I believe in the work that I put in, and I believe in the people I have around me,” he said. “My journey as far as football has shown me as long as you’re willing to continue going and never give up that eventually you will prevail, and right now that’s where I am in my history.

“I’m prevailing over all the circumstances and all the negative narratives that were placed on me early in my career. I’m fighting and I’m going to keep going.”