Despite the lower level of competition in college, the Green Bay Packers haven't shied away from signing players from the Ivy League in recent seasons.
Just last year they drafted offensive lineman J.C. Tretter out of Cornell in the fourth round. The year prior they signed fellow offensive lineman Greg Van Roten as an undrafted free agent out of Penn, although he was released earlier this offseason.
The opportunity to add another Ivy League player will be there again for the Packers in the upcoming NFL Draft, this time on the defensive side of the football. Defensive lineman Caraun Reid figures to be a mid-round NFL Draft choice, perhaps as high as the draft's second day (rounds two and three).
Don't tell Reid about beating the odds by making the jump from the FCS level of college football all the way to the NFL. He's seen the light at the end of the tunnel for a long time coming.
"That was a goal of mine since I was a child," said Reid. "I knew it was possible. I’ve heard stories about great men who have done it. Ross Tucker did it and played 10 years in the league. So there have been people who have done it."
Going to Princeton wasn't the path Reid intended, but it worked out all the same.
The son of Jamaican immigrants—both mom and dad are ordained ministers—Reid grew up in New York City's Bronx borough fighting to get noticed by major college football programs.
Big school football factories never came calling, but Reid felt fortunate to be accepted by Princeton and made the most of his Ivy League education, eventually earning a degree in sociology.
Reid also made the most of his time on the football field, racking up 41 tackles for a loss, 20.5 sacks and seven blocked kicks over his four-year career, not bad numbers for a 6' 2" and 302 lb. defensive tackle.
Thanks to a career in which he was twice named a first-team All-American honoree, Reid was invited to the Senior Bowl, the nation's premier all-star game, consisting primarily of players from the higher levels of college football.
"It was great," said Reid. "Going in, I had never played against any of the guys. It was a great confidence builder for me as an athlete, coming from a smaller school going against the higher level competition I didn’t face. It allowed me to improve throughout the week, and I definitely think I improved every day and got better."
In addition to the all-important week of practice, Reid impressed by making two sacks during the game and is now on the radar of many NFL teams in the run-up to May's draft.
The Packers are in the midst of overhauling their defensive line this offseason and could have interest in Reid as a versatile player who can slide all the way from nose tackle to the five-technique position head-up on the offensive tackle.
Reid relies on his quickness, including his favorite inside and outside counter moves, allowing him to cause disruption in opponents' backfields. But there's more to his game than just quickness.
"I can be a little cerebral," said Reid. "I love studying the game; I love studying film. That’s one of the things I think will separate me. My intent of getting in the film room and getting after it."
The Packers may have added Julius Peppers to the mix and appear to be intent on making B.J. Raji a nose tackle, but seeing as they're allowing veterans like Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly to test free agency, there's room open for new additions to the defensive line.
Whether it's mere coincidence or a comfort level in drafting his clients, Reid is also represented by agent Mike McCartney of Priority Sports, who also happens to represent Packers A.J. Hawk, T.J. Lang and Mason Crosby.
Whether or not he joins the Packers, Reid has big plans for the NFL, where football will be his full-time job.
"I do believe I have great potential," said Reid. "One of the things, being at Princeton, I have to do a lot of studying as well. The studying takes a lot of my day. Being able to focus on football will be huge for me. I think my potential and my ability will skyrocket."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Princeton defensive lineman Caraun Reid by Brian Carriveau.
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