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Eagles' Haason Reddick reveling in journey to Super Bowl LVII after early career struggles: 'I'm here, baby'

PHOENIX -- On first glance, it would be fair to think Haason Reddick might never reach this stage.

Reddick's career began with plenty of difficulties, including playing at a position that didn't suit his skill set, leaving him as a flop of a first-round pick -- initially, at least. Drafted as a sack artist, Reddick registered just 7.5 sacks combined in his first three seasons in Arizona.

Fast-forward to the first quarter of the 2023 NFC Championship Game, where Reddick officially proved to any remaining doubters that they'd given up on him too early. Reddick barreled through blockers toward San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, striking the passer's arm and forcing a fumble that proved to be more pivotal than a simple turnover.

The hit injured Purdy, significantly affecting the outcome of a game that sent the Eagles to the Super Bowl. Reddick took the podium during Super Bowl LVII Opening Night and reflected on his journey to this point, which certainly wasn't guaranteed.

"It's very satisfying, man," Reddick said. "It lets me know that the work that I've put in in staying along this path, that it wasn't a waste of time. That it wasn't for no reason. It showed that sticking through, I was doing the right thing. That I was doing what I was meant to do."

Reddick arrived in Philadelphia in 2022, just across the Delaware River from where he grew up in Camden, New Jersey, and where he spent his collegiate years at Temple. Like his journey to the Super Bowl, a return to the greater Philadelphia area wasn't guaranteed or even intended, but after the Panthers decided Reddick wouldn't be in their future plans -- even after an 11-sack year in Carolina -- it made plenty of sense to join an Eagles team that felt it was on the precipice of something great.

After recording 23.5 sacks between his last two seasons, Reddick was also on the verge of reaching new heights.

"Maybe last year is when it clicked," Reddick said. "My first year with the Cardinals, I was just getting back into it, I was just getting my feet wet. Then I had last year with Carolina, that's when I started feeling really good about my pass-rushing ability. Then this year, I just went crazy."

Going "crazy" means setting a new career-high with 16 sacks in 2022, but Reddick isn't the only pass-rushing dynamo on this team. Philadelphia reached the Super Bowl with 78 sacks logged as a team, just five sacks shy of breaking the single-season record for most recorded by a defense (82) in the Super Bowl era. Reddick knows he's fortunate to be part of such a vicious pass-rushing unit.

"Just so many great players, man," Reddick said. "From the edges to the interior, even when our guys that come in when our starters come out, there's no drop-off. We call it 1A and 1B. There's no drop-off in production when our second group is in there."

Reddick was among the league's best at getting after the quarterback in 2022, but by most accounts, he's still overlooked in favor of bigger names. Reddick agreed with this notion Monday, but knew he can use it as further fuel.

After all, this is the same player whose first team declined his fifth-year option just before he blossomed into a quarterback-hunting machine.

Now, he gains satisfaction from proving his growth just needed patience and opportunity. His greatest chance to prove himself comes Sunday, when his Eagles face the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII.

"That I could do this thing, you know what I'm saying?" Reddick said when asked what he learned from his last three seasons, each spent with a different club. "I know during my career, a lot of people had questions if I could really do this thing, but like you said, three different teams in three different years, three seasons, back-to-back-to-back with double-digit sacks.

"I'm here, baby. I can do this thing."

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