Caraun Reid will be among the more than 1,000 graduating seniors congregating next Tuesday in front of Nassau Hall for Princeton University’s 267th commencement ceremony.
While many of the graduates will be wondering what awaits them in the real world, Reid has already gotten a taste of his life after Princeton.
The star defensive lineman was drafted in the fifth round of the NFL draft by the Detroit Lions on May 10 and headed to the Motor City the next day to start his indoctrination into professional football.
For Reid, his destiny started to come into focus when his cell phone rang early in the fifth round.
“I have a phone that identifies area codes and when I saw Michigan, I was excited,” said Reid, who watched the final two days of the draft from his family’s home in the Bronx, N.Y.
“I never thought this would happen when I started football. I was talking to everybody, [general manager] Martin Mayhew, coach [Jim] Caldwell, and the defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin. I was just really happy, I was smiling the whole time.”
In Reid’s view, joining the Lions is a good fit. “The coaches are great and I am in a position to compete and learn from some great players like Ndamukong Suh (Detroit’s Pro Bowl defensive tackle),” said the 6’2, 305-pound Reid, who is the 14th Princeton football player to be selected in the NFL Draft and the first in the modern era (since the 1970 merger) to be selected within the first five rounds. “It is is an ideal position for me to be in.”
While Reid didn’t have much contact with the Lions before the draft, he has immersed himself into the Detroit organization, staying out in Michigan since the draft and participating in a rookie minicamp, meetings, conditioning sessions, and one round of Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
“I met with them briefly at the combine but I hadn’t talked with them since, my first time out there was last week,” said Reid, who officially signed with the Lions on May 15, entering into a four-year contract with a signing bonus of $188,880 and a total package of $2,408,880, according to the Pride of Detroit website.
“The minicamp was great. Getting into the competitive atmosphere helped me grow as a player. The rookie class is staying at the same place and we have gotten to know each other.”
Reid acknowledges that OTAs showed him how much he has to grow. “The OTAs have set the bar higher; you feel like a rookie out there,” said Reid.
“It is just the speed and being able to know where to go. The veteran guys know what is expected and the rookies don’t. You just compete as hard as you can. I just want to keep getting better and do better every rep.”
In Reid’s view, his Princeton experience gives him a better chance at succeeding in the NFL.
“I found out what I really loved, that was the biggest part of it, being able to pursue your passion,” said Reid, reflecting on his Princeton career.
“I am approaching this situation as a better man for having gone to Princeton. I think I will be more professional and have a greater maturity.”
Princeton head coach Bob Surace, who spent eight years on the coaching staff of the Cincinnati Bengals, believes that Detroit presents a good professional opportunity for Reid.
“Having had to play against Jim Washburn when he was at Tennessee, I know that he is one of the most respected defensive line coaches in the NFL,” said Surace.
“He likes hard-working, high effort guys who can rush the passer. The other part that is a good fit is that they have veteran guys on the line who are first round draft picks and who are productive. It will be good for Caraun to be in the same room with those kind of guys.”
In Surace’s view, Reid has what it takes to be a productive player in the NFL.
“The scouts got to know him; he has the physical traits plus the intangibles and work ethic,” added Surace of Reid, a 2012 and 2013 All-America and three-time first-team All-Ivy League honoree who had 20.5 sacks and 168 tackles in his career as he helped the Tigers rise from the cellar to a share of the 2013 league title. “There is a reason he went in the highest draft round of any player in Princeton history.”
Reid’s selection is another feather in the cap for a program that saw star defensive lineman Mike Catapano get chosen in the seventh-round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs and emerge as a special teams starter and rotation player for KC.
“I am so excited for Caraun; this is his dream and the career path he wants,” said Surace.
“It shows that we are developing guys in the right way. Our strength coach, Jason Gallucci, is doing as good a job as he can having the guys for one-and-a half to two hours. The coaches watch film and prepare; it shouldn’t be any different than Florida State. These are things we can do well and it doesn’t matter if you are D-III or Ivy League. The players have a heavy academic load but they value football too.”
Reid, for his part, is ready to do things the right way for the Lions and let the chips fall where they may this fall.
“I just want to be the best I can be,” said Reid. “I don’t know what is going to happen in training camp or in the season but as long as I am doing my best, that is the main thing.”