As he gets ready to begin his professional football career, being introduced on the biggest of stages during the NFL draft, Temple's Haason Reddick won't forget the two people who had the biggest influence on his success.

Former Temple head coach Matt Rhule and assistant Francis Brown gave Reddick's improbable career a major boost, but his parents, RaeLakia Reddick and Raymond Matthews, provided the emotional and financial support when times looked bleak.

Reddick, a top prospect at linebacker, set an American Athletic Conference record with 221/2 tackles for losses as a senior. Now he is preparing for his signature moment, almost certainly to come Thursday in the first round of the NFL draft.

"Both of my parents have been so motivational," Reddick said last week.

His story - from walk-on to likely first-round pick - has been well-documented. Yet when he reached the lowest of depths, after former Temple coach Steve Addazio didn't want him, even as a walk-on, Reddick leaned heavily on his parents.

"He was real down because he knew he was better than a lot of guys," his father said.

The break came when Addazio left for Boston College and Rhule arrived at Temple and retained Brown. The graduate assistant coach under Addazio was named defensive backs coach.

Brown, a standout quarterback-defensive back at Camden, had known Reddick and his parents, who are from Camden, for many years. He persuaded Rhule to keep Reddick.

"Knowing his father and mom and how hard they worked to get him into school, there is something I felt I had to do," Brown said in a telephone interview from Texas, where he is now an assistant under Rhule at Baylor. "Me being young, I begged them and I was probably out of line."

Rhule liked everything he saw and heard about Reddick and welcomed him to the team.

But Reddick, who played sparingly in his final two high school seasons at Haddon Heights because of injury, was not offered a scholarship right away. That caused financial hardship, but his parents were willing to accept it.

"Initially, I did his grocery shopping for him every week, but then I saw he was missing key opportunities to be with his friends off the field," his mother said.

So RaeLakia, a teacher at Camden Acelero Learning, a Head Start educational program, took out a loan so her son could have a meal card.

"It meant a lot to me that she did that and wanted to make sure I was comfortable," said Reddick, who did not earn a scholarship until the spring after his redshirt junior season.

All through his college career, his mother stressed one thing: get the degree. Her son graduated in December with a degree in criminal justice.

"I have always been about education and I have seen kids that were awesome and they got hurt and didn't have the degree to fall back on," she said.

As for his football progress, it wasn't easy at first being at the bottom of the depth chart. Reddick redshirted in his first year under Addazio, then did not play in the first three games as a freshman under Rhule.

All the while, his father used to attend those 6 a.m. practices and encouraged his son on a daily basis.

"I told him to have faith and keep working and your talents will be seen," Matthews said. "And you could see he had the speed and the strength."

After those first three games, Reddick started seeing time on special teams and at linebacker. In 2014, he played in nine games and made two starts. Then he had a breakout junior year at defensive end, beginning with a 1 1/2-sack performance in Temple's first win over Penn State since 1941. He was named honorable mention all-American Athletic Conference.

The 6-foot-1, 237-pound Reddick took it to another level as a senior as Temple went 10-4 and won the AAC championship game with a 34-10 victory over Navy.

Reddick, who played defensive end as a senior but is projected as an NFL linebacker, then followed that with dominating showings at the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine, where he ran a 4.52 40-yard dash.

Now comes Thursday. Reddick is among 22 NFL hopefuls invited to the draft in Philadelphia, 15 minutes from his hometown of Camden.

"I am a very emotional person and I am sure the tears will be flowing," his mother said.

His father may need a few extra tissues as well.

"Every day I wake up and think of all the hard work he did," Matthews said. "I am so proud of him."

Reddick will be happy to have his parents share in his big day.

"They both helped me be strong when I was down," he said. "I can't say enough about all they have done for me."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard