CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Kevin Reddick is still putting his life back together after an apartment fire this summer destroyed nearly everything he owned.
But the resilient North Carolina linebacker isn't sulking. He said he is thankful to be alive and playing college football for the Tar Heels.
"It was tough in the beginning," the sophomore said Monday. "But as the season got going and training camp, I realized ... everybody got recruited for a reason and I guess coach (Butch) Davis recruited me for a reason. You've got to come in and play and step up just like those guys."
Heading into this weekend's game at No. 25 Miami, Reddick is growing up on the field while playing between a pair of NFL prospects in Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant.
Reddick is second on the team in tackles and is coming off a nine-stop performance in a weekend win at Virginia, which included a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown in the blowout victory that ended a 14-game losing streak in Charlottesville.
Every play helps Reddick, 20, heal a little more from what has been a painful few months since that July afternoon.
Among the most personal items lost: Numerous pictures of his 1-year-old daughter, Kamalani, who does not live with him in Chapel Hill, and a state championship ring from high school.
"He's been holding up very well," said Andre' Williams, the team's director of student-athlete development. "I can only imagine the stress a young guy like Kevin could be undergoing through a situation like that. One minute, everything seems to be OK. The next minute, everything's gone."
The school, working through its compliance staff and with NCAA approval, soon set up an assistance program through a local nonprofit — Quest Ministries of Chapel Hill — to raise money for Reddick's losses because he didn't have renter's insurance. Williams said the school talked with Reddick to inventory as many lost possessions as he could remember, then looked up items online to compile the cost.
"I think that (the fund) alleviated a little bit of some of the fears, because most college kids don't have anything anyhow," coach Butch Davis said. "It's a bunch of T-shirts, and shorts and tennis shoes and a letter jacket. But to them, it's their whole world."
Williams said they're hoping to raise $10,000. Currently, the fund has raised between $1,500 and $2,000. It isn't allowed to exceed Reddick's total losses to comply with NCAA rules.
"The key is this young man is appreciative of anything he gets," Williams said. "He understands if he gets any funds or money from anybody, that's a blessing in itself."
Reddick said he had just gotten out of the shower and ordered a pizza when he noticed flames through the window that afternoon. He threw on some shorts, put on some shoes and grabbed his cell phone on the way out the door. The fire didn't seem big, so he figured he'd return shortly after firefighters extinguished the flames.
Instead, the fire spread quickly as Reddick watched from the distance.
"'I can't believe this is happening. All my stuff is in there,'" Reddick said, recalling his thoughts. "That's what I was saying: What am I going to do?"
The fire, which began above the third-floor apartment shared by Reddick and defensive end Michael McAdoo, displaced 22 people, though no one was hurt. Reddick said McAdoo — who is unavailable for comment due to his connection with the ongoing NCAA investigation into the program — had left a short time before the fire began.
McAdoo had renter's insurance and therefore wasn't included in the charity fund.
"At the time it was happening, I didn't think nothing of it," Reddick said. "(McAdoo) asked why I didn't grab nothing. I mean, it's a fire. That's all you think about. When you see a fire, you're thinking about getting out. ... I just figured we'd be able to go back later and get some things, but I guess it led to bigger things."
Reddick spent about a week in a hotel after the fire, then headed home to New Bern to visit family before returning to Chapel Hill for training camp.
He has moved into another apartment in the same complex — with renter's insurance. He's replaced some of the lost pictures of his daughter and taken plenty of new ones. He hopes to get another high school state championship ring after the season.
"They lost a lot of personal effects and a lot of things that certainly meant a lot of things to them," Davis said. "The good news is they saved their lives. It didn't happen at night when they were asleep. You can imagine what potentially could have happened if it wasn't in the middle of the afternoon."
Quest Ministries: www.QuestNC.org