Caraun Reid ’14 (61) runs a drill with the Detroit Lions.
Caraun Reid ’14 (61) runs a drill with the Detroit Lions.
Detroit Lions/Gavin Smith

At graduation, many Princeton seniors were looking forward to some time off before starting a new job. Caraun Reid ’14 didn’t have that luxury: He’s already playing football for the Detroit Lions.

“[Lions head] coach [Jim] Caldwell gave me the day off,” Reid said after returning to Princeton for Commencement. “It was definitely moving very fast. The whole graduation aspect hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

Reid, a two-time All-American defensive lineman, has had a lot going on. After finishing his course requirements in the fall semester, he left Princeton to train and wait for his dream of playing in the NFL to come true. It happened in May in the fifth round of the draft, when Detroit called his name.

The company he now keeps, including defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, has pushed him to get better. Reid has been praised for his physicality, his intelligence, and his singing — he was a member of the Old NasSoul and Gospel Ensemble vocal groups at Princeton — but he knows he has plenty of work to do.

At Lions minicamp, which opened June 10, Reid said that improving his technique is a priority. His biggest challenge? “Just being a rookie, pretty much,” he said. “The NFL’s definitely a step up from any league that you play in.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace ’90, who coached for the Cincinnati Bengals for eight years, said that’s no surprise. “You’re not thrown into Spanish 101” in an NFL training camp, Surace said. “You’re at the 400-level the first day.”

Though his Princeton pedigree may not carry as much weight on the playing field as his fellow Lions rookies’, who hail from schools like Arkansas and Notre Dame, Reid said he’s happy to join a handful of Ivy pros, including former teammate Mike Catapano ’13 of the Kansas City Chiefs. “There’s more of a target on my back just because I’m a rookie,” Reid said. “The Ivy League is more like a badge of honor for me.”

It’s also something he has in common with William Ford Jr. ’79, vice chairman of the Lions, who Reid said already had reached out to him. “It’s been great to be able to see the Princeton bonds,” he said.

Reid was unwilling to make any predictions, about himself or his team, but recognizes he’s been given a great opportunity. “I’m just very excited about being able to compete at this level,” he said.