Caraun Reid can become part of a Princeton alumni club that has only one member.
Reid, a 6-foot-2, 302-pound defensive tackle, is projected to be selected in the National Football League draft as high as the third round this year, which would put him with Charlie Gogolak as the only Tigers players ever taken above the sixth round.
Princeton’s first two-time all-American first-team honoree in 20 years, totaled 20 1/2 sacks in 40 games for the Tigers. In January, he became the first Ivy League player to be invited to the Senior Bowl since 1980 and had sacks on back-to-back plays during the game while facing some of the nation’s top NFL draft prospects.
“He is one of those rare guys that athletically had no business being in the Ivy League,” said former Princeton offensive lineman Ross Tucker, who played with five NFL teams and is now a host for Sirius XM NFL Radio. “He looks like he could play for Alabama, USC or LSU.”
The draft began yesterday with the first 32 selections and continues with the second and third rounds tonight. The final four rounds are held tomorrow and Reid, 22, is seen joining Gogolak, a kicker who was the sixth overall pick in the 1966 draft, in the exclusive group.
Reid, who is from the Bronx in New York, tied for the Ivy League-lead with 6 1/2 sacks during his final season while leading Princeton to an 8-2 record and a league title. He became the second Princeton player to play in the Senior Bowl, the first since Hollie Donan in 1950, and said he quickly realized there wasn’t that big of a difference between his ability and the players from the major programs.
“When I got to the Senior Bowl a lot of the teams were saying,‘We like what you did at Princeton, you look like a great player, you look athletic,’ but they didn’t know how that would translate against high-level competition,” Reid said by telephone. “That ambivalence was sort of what I was going against.”
Halfway through the first day of Senior Bowl practices in Birmingham, Alabama, Reid said any questions that he could compete at the highest level were gone.
“I started to realize that I could ball with these dudes,” Reid said with a laugh following a workout this week at his school’s New Jersey campus. “Sure I went to Princeton, but they were just lucky I went to Princeton.”
Reid says he understand that he still has room for improvement. While his draft profile on NFL.com describes him as very quick off the ball, active and energetic, it also says he shows little feel for blocking pressure, can be late to locate the ball, gets pushed around too easily and has some durability issues.
“He needs some work, there’s no question,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on a media conference call. “But he understands what it’s going to take to go from the Ivy League to the National Football League, which is a huge jump. What he did at the Ivy League level is impressive enough to be a fourth-, fifth-round pick, possibly third.”
Reid is seeking to become Princeton’s 14th NFL draft pick and the second in as many years.
Fellow Tigers defensive lineman Mike Catapano was a seventh-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, appeared in 15 games as a rookie and collected one quarterback sack. The last time Princeton had picks in back-to-back years was 1982 and 1983, when the draft had 12 rounds. It was shortened to eight rounds in 1993 and then to seven rounds -- its current length -- the following year.
Catapano was one of three players from Ivy League schools drafted a year ago, along with Cornell’s JC Tretter and Harvard’s Kyle Juszczcyk. Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews may join Reid in this year’s Ivy League draft class. Linebacker Zak DeOssie (Brown), quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Harvard) and offensive lineman Kevin Boothe (Cornell) were among other Ivy League players drafted in recent years.
“Fifteen years ago, it was very rare for a guy to get a shot from the Ivy League,” said Tucker, who noted there were about 25 NFL scouts at last season’s Princeton-Cornell game. “There’s been enough guys that have had success and legitimate NFL careers that I think the NFL is starting to realize there are guys from this league who can start and guys who can certainly come in and contribute.”
Reid said he’ll be watching the draft from his home in the Bronx, where he didn’t start playing football until his freshman year in high school and his father and mother are both ordained ministers. Reid didn’t get much attention from colleges as a high school player and said when he opted to come to Princeton he was shy and had little leadership presence.
“I’ve seen myself develop to the point where I’m not only leading by example, but I’m that lively jumping up and down presence, I’m that guy who tries to get people hyped,” Reid said. “That’s the man I hope I continue to be -- to develop more as a leader and be one of those guys who leaves an indelible mark on whichever organization I’m fortunate enough to be playing for on the next level.”
Reid said while he’s excited about the prospect of making history for Princeton, the most difficult part is waiting to learn which NFL jersey he’ll be wearing.
“It’s a little bit testing when you’re just waiting and you have no idea what’s about to happen,” Reid said. “I’ll just be excited when some team calls me and says, ‘OK Caraun, let’s go.’”