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Caraun Reid dons a pair of black glasses, sitting upright and patiently answering a question about his sociology degree with a table of five. It's almost a quaint atmosphere within an otherwise spacious room chocked full of hundreds of media members looking at the top skill position players and stars from powerhouse football schools.
Reid's unique first name is actually one of the least atypical traits about the only player from Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett's alma mater likely to go in the 2014 NFL Draft. Reid, a 6-2, 302-pound Bronx native, raised by two parents who are ministers from Jamaica, landed at Princeton after making another decision that few from the Big Apple seemingly choose.
He wanted to play football.
"You don't see too many football fields in New York City," Reid says. "Growing up as a child, I never attended a football game because there were no football stadiums within my vicinity. You see baseball stadiums, you see basketball stadiums. You can always look up to those players, because they're always in the local areas. So a lot of kids end up going to play baseball and basketball. Football sort of becomes the one everyone plays, but after a while everyone kind of splinters off."
It never splintered off for Reid, who puts football among the top three most important things in life, along with faith and family. He says he doesn't know what he'd do in life if he didn't play professionally.
"Can't really get higher than that because I'm not giving up my faith and I love my family," Reid says.
He continues to calmly answer questions at a side table, shortly after Johnny Manziel spoke from the main podium and around the same time Teddy Bridgewater steps up to face the media throng, just another face in a crowd full of soon-to-be celebrities.
Someone turns to Reid to say that "faith, family and football" is a Vince Lombardi line.
"Oh, it is? Well, he's a smart man," Reid says with a smile.
Before Reid went to Princeton and became the school's first two-time First Team All-America honoree in 20 years by repeating in 2012 and 2013, he was a defensive lineman at Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx.
For the journey on which he's about to embark, Reid says he's already received a great deal of support from those in his neighborhood, and that drives him to perform even better. Reid was already set to be selected in the draft this year, but after a breakout Senior Bowl in which he compiled two sacks, he's climbing up more than a few charts. If and when Reid gets picked in 2014, it'll mark two straight years Princeton has seen a player taken in the NFL Draft.
"I'd say we have a good coach," Reid says. "We both also worked with Chuck Smith. He's a phenomenal pass-rush specialist, but also our positional coach has been really good at getting us going."
And now the connections to Garrett really spark.
That first coach Reid referred to is Princeton's head coach, Bob Surace, who was Garrett's center when the current Cowboys head coach used to be the Tigers quarterback. That second coach Reid credited would be his defensive line coach, Steve Verbit, who was the head coach at Princeton when Surace and Garrett both attended the school.
Surace says he heads out to Dallas with a few other members of his staff every year in the springtime for an alumni event. A month later, Garrett puts on a camp at Princeton with his wife, which Surace says is attended by many friends and alumni.
"It all kind of weaves together," Surace says. "Steve Verbit, who's our associate head coach, and our D-line coach, Steve, coached when Jason and I were at Princeton. So it's a tight inner circle there with all of us."
Garrett was a year older than Surace, but the two played together during Garrett's junior and senior years. Now, it wouldn't be surprising if Garrett is among the many NFL coaches inquiring about Reid, who continues to turn more heads.
Reid doesn't need to inquire about Garrett, though. He's heard about the Cowboys sideline boss and his legacy for years.
"I do honor him as a Princeton great," Reid says. "We hear a lot about him, his legacy, our coach was his center. We do hear a lot about what he's done and what he's doing. He's a great man and a great alumni." [embedded_ad]
Surace says before he got the head coaching job at Princeton, Reid was already there playing as a freshman. Immediately, Reid's frame and lower body strength popped out to Surace. But Reid was young, and there would be a developmental phase that he and the rest of the freshman class would have to work through to succeed.
Reid did just that. In fact, he might have done it more than anyone expected. Reid came to Princeton as a pass-rushing end in high school, but he kept bulking up, eventually shifting his way inside.
"I just got bigger," Reid recalls. "I got bigger and as time went on, my speed maintained. So I was able to pretty much play all over at Princeton."
That first impression Surace had of Reid quickly developed into an admiration. Reid finished with 168 tackles in his career, compiling at least 5.5 sacks during each of his final three seasons.
"You get the job, and you see how hard he works and the commitment and effort he puts into the weight room, into the practice field, on game day. Everything he does, he does things right," Surace says. "And then you add the component of leadership. He's a very quiet young man, and it took him a little bit longer to take a more vocal role. We really saw it this year."
The more impressive thing about Reid, according to Surace, is that despite his power, his frame and his strength, he's "not a fat guy." He moves well, and Surace predicted he'd surprise scouts at the combine.
His 20 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press left something to be desired from a strength standpoint, but the defensive tackle would go on to run a sub-5.00 second 40-yard dash despite his 300-plus pound frame.
Surace continued to comment on Reid's athleticism, stating that he brings not only a run-stopping presence, but also pass-rushing skills, which were on full display in the Senior Bowl. People may surmise what they want about players from Ivy League schools, but Reid demonstrated he could compete with college football's top seniors from the top conferences.
It can be a challenge for Ivy League players to convince scouts and teams that they can compete in the NFL. Because of this, Reid knew the opportunity the Senior Bowl presented and what a strong showing could do for his future.
"That was a big question mark," Reid says. "'OK, he's good against Ivy League players. How does he compete against higher levels?' So yeah, that's what I aimed to prove that week."
Reid might have surprised the opposition as much as he did the scouts, whose heads had to turn when Reid notched sacks on consecutive plays using his interior quickness. The first sack occurred against Baylor's Cyril Richardson, a two-time All-America offensive lineman from the Big 12.
"It just gave me more confidence in my technique. What I've been training for in the offseason is just like, 'OK, this is how it works,'" Reid says. "This is what I trained for.'"
He's coy but honest about his performance, finally admitting he believes he opened some eyes with that breakout game. Reid says his goal is to always improve his stock, which he thinks will continue to rise after the NFL Combine.
The Senior Bowl was a fantastic experience for Reid and affirmed to the shifty defensive tackle that he belongs.
"Going in there, I'd never played against any of those guys," Reid says. "It was just a great confidence builder for me as an athlete, just coming from a smaller school going against the higher level competition that I didn't face."
Reid believes he separates himself from other potential draft picks in the way he approaches the game. He admits to being cerebral on the field, but doesn't believe that slows him down. He doesn't just toil through studying tape; he actually loves it.
And he knows how to study, as his educational background proves.
That could be enticing for a Cowboys team with a massive and obvious connection to Princeton and its coaches, as well as a glaring need for a player capable of dominating as a three-technique defensive tackle.
"I do believe I've got great potential," Reid says. "Being at Princeton, I have to do a lot of studying as well. … Just being able to focus on football will be huge for me, and I think my potential and abilities will skyrocket."