In the spring of 2006, Redman was preparing to spend his third season out of the NFL, having been cut by the Patriots and Titans after brief and unremarkable employment terms the previous offseason. He had returned to his native Louisville, Ky., where he'd been a star quarterback in high school and college before the Ravens made him a third-round pick in the 2000 NFL draft, and taken a job with BB&T Insurance Services.
One cold call in particular drove home the knowledge that his dream had died.
"I remember walking into a machinery company, CSS, and trying to sell them insurance," Redman recalled Monday. "I was wearing a suit, and I walked into the lobby hoping they'd recognize me – sometimes people would, and sometimes they wouldn't, which made it even more awkward. I remember thinking, 'Wow. What am I doing?' Talk about a humbling feeling. As many times as I'd complained about football practice, this was a real job and a real complaint."
Thanks to an unlikely opportunity and his ability to parlay it into a shocking renaissance, Redman, 32, is back in a far more comfortable environment. Two years after signing with the Falcons following the short and ill-fated pro stint by Bobby Petrino, Redman's offensive coordinator at Louisville in '98, the quarterback is playing a key role in the team's push for a second consecutive playoff berth.
After replacing the injured Matt Ryan(notes) early in last Sunday's home game against the Buccaneers, Redman led Atlanta to a thrilling 20-17 victory, zipping a 5-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White(notes) on fourth-and-goal with 23 seconds remaining. With Ryan set to miss at least one more game with turf toe, Redman will start for the 6-5 Falcons against the 7-4 Eagles at the Georgia Dome this coming Sunday.
When I talked to Redman on Monday, he was on his way back to the Falcons' training facility for the second time, his head spinning amid the sudden increase in responsibilities. "Oh my God, it's frickin' nuts," Redman said, laughing. "When you're a backup, you forget about this part of it, and how much time you really have to devote to do it right."
Rest assured Redman won't be rattled – not after his bizarre journey, which essentially left him as the lone uplifting development in the otherwise regrettable Petrino saga. While others in the Falcons' universe might curse the coach who bailed on his team hours after an embarrassing Monday Night Football defeat late in the '07 season to take the Arkansas job, saying goodbye to his players via form letters, Redman knows better.
"I'm not going to bite the hand that fed me," Redman said. "Hey man, that guy put food on the table for me. I'm not saying he handed me anything, but he gave me an opportunity [to try out], and I made the most of it. Obviously he did some things that upset people and that he probably regrets, but hey, I've got a job. And in this economy, believe me, I appreciate it."
If Redman performs like he did last Sunday, his NFL employment prospects will remain bountiful. His relief effort was admirable even before he engineered the game-winning drive, but the day ultimately hinged on the final play, which called for future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez(notes) to run an inside slant from one side and White, the team's emerging star of a wideout, to run an outside slant from the other.
"When I got to the line [the Bucs] were in man free coverage, and I thought, 'This is perfect; I couldn't ask for anything better,' " Redman recalled. "Then they called timeout and I said, 'Oh, no, they're gonna change it for sure.' But they came out in the same defense and tried to bracket Tony, so I was pretty sure I'd go Roddy's way. I just trusted he was going to get across the defender's face – and he's a Pro Bowler, so I figured there was a pretty good chance he would."
White did, and Redman made a throw that couldn't have been more perfect. He knew it had reached his intended target not from what he saw amid the crowd of bodies or from the roar of the crowd, but from a slightly earlier, equally telling sound.
"It was kind of quiet when I threw it, and then I just heard the thump of the ball hitting his shoulder pads," Redman said. "That's what I remember about the play. It's almost like that feeling when you hit a perfect golf shot – you just know."
Rather than celebrating his glorious moment with a night on the town, Redman went home to his wife, Ashley, and their two young children and watched a couple of episodes of "The Backyardigans." On Monday, between trips to the facility, he spent time cleaning his house, where he and Ashley had hosted numerous family members for Thanksgiving, and giving thanks that he's immersed in a world of precise play calls rather than daunting cold calls.
"Selling insurance was probably the best thing that ever happened to me," he said. "I don't take anything for granted anymore, and I appreciate all of this. I'm just going to ride the ride."
Now here's our weekly trip across the NFL landscape, from the promised land to the wasteland, with queries at every stop:
4. New England Patriots: Did former FEMA chief Michael "Brownie" Brown enter the visitors' locker room after Monday night's disaster at the Superdome and tell Bill Belichick, "You're doing a heck of a job"?
9. Philadelphia Eagles: Don't you get the feeling Michael Vick(notes) will score his first touchdown since 2006 in the Georgia Dome on Sunday – and won't you be curious to see what the reaction will be if he does?
18. Houston Texans: Why do I get the feeling they'll go on a December winning streak – and still blow it at the end and miss the playoffs?
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: With games against the Texans, Dolphins and Browns remaining, could these guys sneak into the playoffs without beating a team that has a winning record?
21. New York Jets: After mastering the red-light, green-light system installed by coach Rex Ryan, will rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez(notes) start yelling "Red rover, red rover let Aaron come over!" at Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel(notes) in Toronto on Thursday?
23. Chicago Bears: Whatever happens to Lovie Smith after this season, there's no way Ron Turner returns as offensive coordinator, is there?
28. Oakland Raiders: Now that Marc Trestman has coached the Montreal Alouettes to a Grey Cup victory, will Al Davis try to get his former offensive coordinator to return as head coach – or would he prefer to continue averaging 10½ points per game?