Anthony Reddick can't say much about the Stanley Cup riot that saw louts, low-lifes and middle-class kids from the suburbs find common ground to trash downtown Vancouver last week. But the B.C. Lions defensive back can speak about mob mentality and how rash, unconscionable behaviour can damage and fracture a reputation just as easily as a plateglass window.
Reddick, in the midst of the CFL team's training camp, said he was aware that scores of young men, emboldened by alcohol and egged on by their peers and seemingly solid citizens, went nuts in Vancouver a few nights ago, although he admits his glimpse of the coverage was only fleeting.
Yet, as one of the players at the centre of a vicious and widespread brawl in Miami's Orange Bowl five years ago, Reddick can speak to the subject of embarrassing behaviour, how its implications follow you and how difficult it is to expunge the taint left behind.
On Oct. 14, 2006, the University of Miami's reputation for lawlessness reached a new low when Reddick, his teammates with the Hurricanes and players with city rival Florida International, poured on the field and began waling on each other, in an attempt to settle scores and festering animosities that had existed since high school. Officers from the FIU police and the Florida Highway Patrol had to step in to sort out the mess, which eventually led to the suspension of 31 players. The cameras made Reddick the symbol of the melee, capturing him swinging his helmet, Braveheart-style, at FIU players. Suspended for four games and the publicized object of scorn and condemnation, he just has to click on YouTube to be reminded of the wild scene, and his part in it.
"I think about it," he said. "If the situation were to happen again, and it's happened numerous times, I would react to it differently. I would stay out of it. My teammates are like my brothers. I'm not helping them, if I get caught up in stuff like that and I get suspended. I would react totally different to the situation if it happened today."
Not thinking, out of control, heedless of the consequences. In a misguided way, Reddick agrees he bought into the mentality that he was only protecting his house, the Hurricanes' turf. But what principles were the rioters in Vancouver standing up for? Mayhem, anarchy, stupidity?
"It can happen to anyone, doing things without thinking," said Reddick, speaking from the perspective of a wiser 25-yearold. "I think it can happen to anyone. You should always think before you react. Trouble is easy to find, if you're looking for it. Sometimes, I think it just had to do with the maturity process. If you start thinking before you react, your life will go a lot better. I'm smarter, more mature, I have a bigger view of life because of what happened [five years ago]. I know more of what I want out of life, what I want to be in a couple of years."
As far as football goals go, Reddick would like to progress from backup to Lions starting nickelback, a hybrid defensive back/linebacker position currently held by Korey Banks, an individual who is arguably the best all-around defender in the CFL.
A three-time CFL all-star, Banks is going into his eighth season and turns 32 in August. But Banks led the Lions in sacks (seven), fumble returns (four), made 55 tackles and two interceptions last season and seems impervious to injury. His current consecutive games streak stands at 66, and he sees no reason why he can't push it to the century mark and beyond.
"When I'm ready to leave, he [Reddick] will replace me," Banks said. "But I'm not ready to leave. Even if they cut me next year, I'll play somewhere. No problem. I have another three years to play, at least. And I don't know if you really could replace me, because somebody like me is hard to find. I just feel this way: You'd need a collective group to do what I do."
Banks grew up in Boynton Beach, Fla.; Reddick in Fort Lauderdale, just a little farther south. But their backgrounds and neighbourhoods are so similar, Banks feels as if he knew Reddick even before he really got to know him.
"He reminds me of the guys I grew up with," Banks said. 'He's a humble guy and hardnosed. He's going to do whatever it takes. See how he flies around and hits people? That's why they brought him in to replace Sean Taylor in Miami."
Reddick was issued jersey No. 26 with the Hurricanes, the same number he wears today with the Lions, out of deference to Taylor, the Hurricane who played free safety before him. Known as "Meast" -short for half-man, half-beast -Taylor was voted the hardest hitting player in the NFL, by Sports Illustrated, after he graduated to the Washington Redskins. Taylor died tragically at age 24, however, when the Miami native was shot in the leg and bled to death, the unintended victim of a home robbery. The four male perpetrators, all between the ages of 18 and 20, were later apprehended, convicted and sentenced to life terms in prison.
"More young men making bad decisions that affect them the rest of their lives," Banks said. "All those four guys are locked up now. They should be locked up forever. So stupid, so senseless. Sean Taylor was the best free safety who ever played the game. They walked away with $2,000-$3,000, and they're spending the rest of their lives in prison. Animals, real animals."
That's also what they're saying in Vancouver about the mob that wantonly destroyed property, taunted police and beat up civic-minded individuals who bravely attempted to stop them.
"Do the right thing," Reddick said.
"That's basically what I learned from my experience [at Miami]."
Out of the Cup chaos, one can only hope other young men will acquire the same hard lesson.