JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – His coach calls him relentless; teammates have a name for it when they get whacked by him in practice.
Grady Redding knows one way to go on a football field and that's all out, all the time and that's the way it has been since he was about six years old.
The ferocity of his play has put him on top to the Jacksonville University defensive statistics with 74 tackles this season with 74 tackles, eight for losses, three sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, three pass breakups and two quarterback hurries. Quite a bit for sophomore, you think?
"All my life I've been playing defense and linebacker so that's what I'm used to '' Redding said. "It gets tough at linebacker. In the spring I played safety a little and had a lot less dings and bruises. Now, three fingers on my left hand are jammed up. It's definitely a lot more physical and violent down there but I love it. Our defensive linemen keep those big guys off me so I am free to run to the ball.''
At just 5-10, about 205 pounds, you'd think Redding's size wouldn't allow him to be a force at linebacker. Wrong.
"The best word to describe him is relentless,'' defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Jerry Odom said. "He's not real big but he has been playing linebacker his whole life and doesn't know any other way. He's really athletic and he'll fill a hole as hard as any guy who is 220. He can cover like a safety which is where we have an advantage with (linebacker) DJ Howard and Grady, they both can cover like safeties but are tough enough to play physical in the box. When people try to get mismatches on us those guys can hold their own.''
Physical is an appropriate word.
Redding says laying a lick on an opponent is "the greatest feeling in the world'' and Odom says Redding's teammates sometimes become the opponent.
"He brings the wood,'' Odom said. "He's a physical guy who likes contact, sometimes too much. He's a friendly fire guy, too. He'll hit whoever happens to be there. He's aiming for the opponent and sometimes he'll friendly fire. He's been famous for "Grady-ing'' a guy which is what the kids call "getting Gradied'', even in practice, because he's pretty much got one speed.''
Redding, who is from Cocoa, Fla., who is majoring in kinesiology and minoring in sociology, says he has become a better athlete since entering college but still isn't satisfied with where he is. The 74 tackles are nice, but …
"I should have 85 to 90,'' he reckons. "I try to get 10 per game but those are small goals. The ultimate goals are to win championships.''
Odom likes the thought processes and the improvement out of Redding, who says he was a chubby kid who went through a growth spurt before seventh grade.
"He's a guy who is going to get after it every down.'' Odom said. "He came in last year and almost played pretty good for us but was trying to do too much. I don't think he always trusted his teammates and is doing a much better job understanding where he fits in the defense which is allowing him to make more plays and allowing him to be in position to make interceptions or sacks or tackles.''
- Jim Nasella