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Bulls’s Redden revels in tough play

There’s a saying that the two most elementary things needed to be a good football player are quick feet and courage.

Adam Redden proved last season he has those qualities in surplus.

The 203-pound Redden was asked to play an in-the-box safety position on the short side of the field. Opposite him on the wide side of the UB defense was Khalil Mack.

Which direction do you think opponents preferred to run?

Redden, an All-Western New York star from St. Francis High School, proved he was up to the task. He took on bigger blockers all year long and ranked third on the team in tackles and second in tackles for loss.

One could argue Redden is – pound for pound – the toughest guy on the UB team.

“Pound for pound, the toughest guy we’ve had is Bo Oliver,” said UB coach Jeff Quinn, referring to the running back now playing for the San Diego Chargers. “Adam is definitely up there, absolutely. He’s one of those guys we can play off the edge, and he loves going against those big guys. He’s just a tough kid.”

Redden is a senior captain and one of the leaders of a UB defense that makes its debut at home Saturday against Duquesne. He’s one of 350 players, and the only UB guy, on the watch list for the Senior Bowl.

How tough is Redden?

He never lost his hell-on-wheels style despite a career-threatening injury he suffered his sophomore season at St. Francis.

Redden was riding home in a car with his father after a playoff win over Timon-St. Jude in which he had scored the winning touchdown. Their car was struck by a drunk driver on Route 5.

“I was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down from nerve damage, and I have one kidney now,” Redden said. “They said I wouldn’t play again. But I did not take that as an answer.”

Redden spent six months in the hospital, completed the school year with the help of tutors and was back on the football field for his junior season. He graduated with a 93 average.

After meeting Quinn for the first time in the spring of 2010 to confirm his commitment to UB, Redden told the coach: “You’re a passionate, intense guy. So am I!”

Quinn smiles at the memory. “He’s a tenacious young man. … He didn’t have to tell me that. I could see it from watching his high school tape.”

UB plays a 3-3-5 defense. One safety, Witney Sherry, plays the deep middle. Two safeties play closer to the line of scrimmage. The one on the short side of the field is called the “boundary” safety. The one on the wide side of the field is the “field” safety.

“With the presence of Mack, most teams chose to run to the boundary,” said defensive coordinator Lou Tepper. “We put Redden on the boundary. Redden got a lot of action in essentially a third of the field and was really stout for us. This year we’ve moved him to the field side. He has more room.”

Redden’s shift could be even better for him this year. The new boundary safety, 217-pound junior Okezie Alozie, has a bit more bulk.

Redden’s spot on the wide side calls for more versatility. He must be tough against wide runs and the many receiver screen passes college teams throw. He also must be able to cover receivers. UB rarely plays a two-deep zone, with Redden in a back-end position. But if teams run multiple vertical routes on his side, he needs the speed to cover deep.

“He has tremendous acceleration,” Tepper said. “He’s going to do a multitude of things for us, not only play the strong safety position, but he’s going to be a heavy-duty pass rusher. He’s one of the best pass rushers we have. He’s got a lot of skills.”

Redden had 4.5 sacks last season and 12.5 tackles for loss.

“The difference on the boundary it’s a shorter gap between you and the ball carrier or you and the quarterback,” Redden said. “On the field side, it’s more area to cover, but it also gives you more time to read your keys and see the play. … You might get to take on a fullback on first down. But if it’s second and long, you’ll be in man coverage. So it’s demanding.”

Off the field, Redden is UB’s resident barber. He cuts hair for about 20 players on the team. His barber’s shingle could read: Get a buzz cut from the buzz saw of the UB defense.

“We need him to really step up and have a great year, not only as a solid safety but also in the leadership in that locker room and throughout our program,” Quinn said.