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|01-06-2012, 05:48 PM||#1|
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Redman's rough journey to Steelers' spotlight was no rush
PITTSBURGH -- The CBS broadcast invariably will mention how he came from little Bowie State, a Maryland school of 5,600 students and Division II athletics and nary an NFL playoff participant before this.
That's only a part of the story about how Isaac Redman came to mount this Mile High stage Sunday in Denver.
He came from the depth chart's bottom. From a year on the practice squad. From a goal-line drill before the Steelers coach addressed him by everything but his given name. From some admittedly bad decisions resulting in academic ineligibility after a 1,500-yard sophomore college season. From the helping hand of a Bowie State track coach from the rival high school in New Jersey after the kid was indicted on first-degree felony charges and lost his Division I scholarship.
Redman has covered so much ground already, what's a few yards of Sports Authority Field turf Sunday in just his second NFL start?
"Any big game, he's been there. He's responded," said his Bowie State coach, Damon Wilson. "It's a joy to watch a kid like that, and watch it from Day One."
Oh, and Redman's national unveiling comes the week after his career-high game in Cleveland, where he collected 92 yards and the game's sole touchdown and two fumbles on his final two rushes.
Those fumbles are all the talk in Pittsburgh surrounding Redman, 27, an AFC Wild Card Playoff starter all because Rashard Mendenhall was felled by an ACL injury and third-down back Mewelde Moore remains questionable with an MCL sprain.
"I had 92 yards on 19 carries," Redman said Wednesday, referring to career highs for his 35-game career. "And a touchdown. And picked up blitzes. And played on special teams, too. One run got called back, or I would have had 100. I had a good game minus the two fumbles. I haven't fumbled all year long. It's not like it's been an ongoing problem."
"We are very comfortable with his ball security and how he runs," coach Mike Tomlin said this week of the 6-foot, 230-pound third-year pro with 776 career yards (2010 postseason included) and miles behind him.
"You look at how Isaac Redman played" last Sunday, tackle Max Starks added. "At one point, the Cleveland Browns were arguing with themselves over who was going to tackle him, because they couldn't get him down.
"Looking forward to seeing him featured."
So is Redman.
At long last.
He was a 5,000-yard rusher at Paulsboro (N.J.) High, a state-champion wrestler and a Temple football recruit when, in October 2003, he was indicted on first-degree aggravated sexual assault and other charges after an incident at a party. The next June, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of fourth-degree sexual contact. He got three years of probation and a significant boost from Marc Harrison, Bowie State's track and field coach -- and a native of Paulsboro's archrival.
"It was crazy how a guy from Woodbury helped a guy from Paulsboro out," Redman recalled with a smile.
Harrison "was familiar with Isaac and his situation," remembered Wilson, back then the Bowie State running backs coach. "Everyone -- the staff and administration -- gave him a thumbs up. The kid needed a home. The biggest thing, he needed some structure. From a young man, understanding a leadership role and commitment and all that -- that's where he developed, in my opinion."
Redman admitted he "blew it" his third year there. After a 425-yard freshman season and a school-record sophomore year with 1,512 yards, 12 touchdowns and a 99-yard run against Morgan State, the star flunked out.
"Not doing what I needed to do in the classroom, ... summer school. Things you shouldn't do," he said. Redman gained 1,363 yards and 19 touchdowns his final two seasons with the Bulldogs, and this time the Steelers threw him a lifeline.
An undrafted free agent, when he arrived in Pittsburgh he kept repeating to himself: As long as they don't cut me before we put on shoulder pads, I'll be fine. In 2009 training camp brought an old Steelers vestige: the goal line drill. Red Zone Redman, a nickname that started at Bowie State, came to the fore.
"He scored on us every time," defensive captain James Farrior said.
"I heard the story," added Farrior's inside linebacker sidekick Larry Foote, then starting his one-year exile in Detroit. "They told me, 'We got a stocky running back who ran it in every time.' I never saw any [offense] ever win the goal line. We might have lost once in 10 years."
Redman remembered going seven for seven that day. "I was like, 'This is my time to make a name for myself.' Coach Tomlin kept calling me '[previously cut Kevan] Barlow,' 'Bowie,' 'Out-of-Shape.' He didn't call me one time by my name."
After the 2009 season on the practice squad, the Steelers called on Red Zone Redman as Mendenhall's backup and occasional third-down back. He scored the game-winning, home-field-securing touchdown in 2010 on a short Baltimore pass. "It was sort of a homecoming for him, right up the street from us," Bowie State's Wilson said. "It was pretty funny to watch him put a dagger in the Ravens."
This year, Redman started once for an ailing Mendenhall against Tennessee Oct. 9, rushing for career highs of 49 yards and 15 carries. When Mendenhall sustained the season-ending knee injury in last Sunday's first quarter, Redman played almost every down thereafter and finished with the 92 yards, 19 carries and all. What next?
"This is a big move," Redman said. "It's where you want to be. In this league, at this time of year. It's a national stage, everybody watching. I want to prove that I'm a back that's not just capable of doing 'enough.' I'd be lying if I said I'd be happy being a backup my whole career.
"It means a lot. It goes to show my dedication, my hard work. I was determined to make it and be productive. Not just to say, 'Hey, I played one year on the Steelers' practice squad.'"
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