“I went to college wanting to be a doctor.”
Think of that thing that you’ve been dreaming about for the longest….the dream you want SO bad to come true.
What is it?
For Caraun Reid, my friend and fellow Princeton alum, that “thing” was to be a NFL player. It wasn’t a dream he had until college where he saw the successes he had on the football field. With the support of his coaches and loved one, he pursued the path to “greatness.”
I reached out to Caraun because I thought his story is both interesting and encouraging. He’s someone who was determined to accomplish that goal and worked HARD to make it come to fruition.
How hard are you willing to work? How bad do you want it?
In today’s BRANDMAKERS you’ll learn:
- Why Caraun decided to take a year off from college to focus on his goal of being a NFL player
- How to figure out what it is that you LOVE doing
- Tips for focusing and concentrating better on and off the field
- The power of being CONFIDENT and SELF AWARE
- What it’s like being a rookie NFLer…and more!
PS- I do these BRANDMAKERS because I think we all have the power to inspire others by sharing our stories. Everyone needs to know that there are others out there rooting for you to win and are willing to help support you as you journey to accomplish your goals. Even if you’re not a football fan, there’s still so much you can learn from understanding the how’s and why’s of another person’s journey. Enjoy!
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When did you first start playing football?
I was the guy from the outside looking in. Growing up, I watched the cool guys play football. I didn’t start playing until I was a freshman in high school. I was a scraggly kid, not really imposing at all.
The moment I got on the football field, my coaches put me at offensive and defensive line. I thought that sucked because no one wants to play o-line. Back then, all I wanted to do was run the ball and score touchdowns and do the dance. That was the dream.
I learned that my fantasies of football were way different from the reality of football.
I wasn’t the strongest or fastest guy. I had natural ability, but there was alot of stuff that I needed to gain before I could actually do what I wanted to do on the field.
What was your Princeton football career like?
It was a daunting experience being with guys who are grown men. I came in as a little seventeen-year-old kid who didn’t really know much or play that well. As my Freshman year went on, I got stronger. Then I became one of the better guys on the team. That was one of the most amazing things for me.
Being a student-athlete was extremely difficult, but I had a lot of fun. I don’t like to be miserable in anything I do. It makes it harder to do. It was hard. I had to learn time management. I don’t think I perfected it but I got through college in a way that enabled me to enjoy the whole experience. Whether I was working, playing ball, or working out, I was always having fun. I always made sure I was around fun people no matter what I was doing.
When did the NFL prep start?
I tore my pec sophomore year and missed every game of the season after the first game. After my Junior fall, I had one of the best seasons that I ever had. it dawned on me that I was pretty good at football.
Well, my coaches said it beforehand about my talent level. I didn’t really catch on to it because our team wasn’t doing too well. I focused on other things at the time. After my Junior year, they said that I could do it and that I would have the opportunity to play in the NFL.
Scouts were coming to practices and games. It became a more tangible thing. I could actually see myself being in the NFL.
What is being a football player really about?
You do what you love every day. It’s not really work. It’s fun. I work hard and sweat…my body goes under alot of tests every day. You have many goals that you are working towards. Every day, you are just chipping at them until you succeed. You never really get to where you want to be but you are always getting better.
Did having confidence help you?
Without knowing that I could do it, I probably wouldn’t be in this position. I built my confidence by winning my one-on-one battles. The better I became as a football player, the more success I had.
There was a game that we played and we shut out Brown University. That was my first senior year. It was one of those games where I absolutely dominated. I’ve never been in that position before.
It was one of those “Yea, okay. This is real” moments. Ivy League is lower-level competition. They are not exactly the same tier of people you are going to play in the NFL. There’s always that going against you, but you just have to know it doesn’t matter who is in front of you. Your talent is talent. It’s not based upon your competition.
Your talent is your God-given ability. It was one those things where I had to mold myself in my mind and get my confidence up.
How do you figure out what you’re good or what you should focus on?
Everyone should do some sort of soul-searching in their life. It’s really finding out what you love.
What are your passions? Pursuing your passions is the greatest thing ever. It doesn’t matter what is. Look and see what you love. If you don’t love anything, I don’t know what to tell you.
I know I loved football because it became more important to me than my school work. My success in college wasn’t really bound upon what I got in each class. On the football field, I always wanted to be the best. That was the main thing. I had the opportunity to be the best and I’m still striving for that.
What did your loved ones think about your decision to pursue playing in the NFL?
This wasn’t the path my parents or anyone in the world that knew me thought I would take. I came to college wanting to be a doctor.
There was always that pressure. I did all the pre-med courses but stopped at organic chemistry. It was getting to be too much.
Once I decided to take a 5th year, my parents pretty much knew that I wasn’t going to medical school anytime soon.
There was a little bit of tension. My dad was not quite happy when I first told him that I wanted to take a semester off from college because I want to play in the NFL. He said, “Yeah, I hear you, but we kinda have this plan set out. That’s not part of the plan.”
Now they are my biggest supporters. It’s great how everything worked out.
So what does it feel like to know you’ve accomplished one of your biggest goals- playing in the NFL?
It’s an honor. It’s amazing but at the same time it’s something you have to continuously work for and through. There’s very little job security unless you have established yourself in the league.
This is especially true for a young player like myself. Having only played one season, you definitely know that you have to make your mark and let them know who you are. You have to present yourself in a way so that you are not someone they want to get rid of.
I’m always working on my abilities as a player but also how I present myself.. in the locker room…when I’m running plays…my body language…how I lift and how I respond to bad situations.
I’m always making sure that I keep this job because it’s the best thing ever.
When did you experience challenges and how did you cope?
The whole rookie season would be classified as a struggle. It’s a big adjustment from playing in college and going to class to this is your life and you’re playing in the NFL. You have to make yourself ready. That was the biggest thing.
The hardest thing for me was not getting something that I thought was so simple. I had to understand how to play within the defense.
I thought it was the easiest thing because it’s very simple directions. It’s nothing intricate. You attack. You go. I had to break myself free from the cerebral mentality that I’ve always had being a thinker. I had to think that there has to be something else that I should be looking at. That was the biggest and hardest thing I struggled with all of last year. It’s like, “You’re here. Be in the moment. Focus and go. Don’t think about anything else. Don’t worry about what’s going on tonight.”
I can transfer my thoughts from one moment to the other and not really focus on what’s important. I suffered for it a little bit, but I’m better for it now.
How did you learn to focus more?
I do tactical breathing. I work on that in my off-time. In the afternoon, I just try to breathe and focus on my breath and rhythms and knowing what’s important right now. I try to tune out all the noises in my head.
I haven’t made great progress yet just because of how much I talk to myself… but this has helped me tune out the noise and clutter.
How do you think you’ve changed since you graduated college?
Now that I have control over my situation, I’m a lot better than I was in the past. I always knew who I was in college, but I wasn’t out there as much in terms of showing people who I was.
I’ve learned how much it is okay to be different from the norm. Granted I am an Ivy League educated guy in the NFL, who in his off-time plays music… there’s no one else like me in my locker room. I’ve learned that this is who I am and that I should let people in. It’s a process though.
What’s it like to be a Black man in the NFL?
I love it. I think it’s a lot harder being a Black man on an Ivy League team especially when there’s not as many of us. I wouldn’t say there is any sort of racism or anything like that on the field. It’s different. I came from the Bronx where everyone is either Black or Hispanic. Then you go to Princeton where my Freshman year there were about 10-15 Black guys out of 110 guys. The diversity increased through my time at Princeton.
Then,going back to the NFL where there is a lot more Black guys..it’s a different feeling. It’s like how I felt in high school where I had more guys who could relate to what it means to be a Black man. There is a lot of pressure. They can help me go through it. It’s better to have guys in the locker room that you can talk to and understand what you are going through as a Black man.
Do you ever have those rookie “star struck” moments?
It’s crazy that you get to play with the greats. There’s a guy I’ve idolized for the past five to six years named Ndamokung Suh. I remember the first time I saw him LIVE, it was daunting. I thought, “You’re real. This is how you look. I’m actualy here.”
This dude is the best defensive tackle in football. You get to play on the same defense at him (even if not at the same time.) It gets to the point where now we have a really great relationship. It’s gotten from this is the dude I watch to now he is one of my great friends. It’s amazing how that translates.
Do people treat you differently now that you’re in the NFL?
Because I am a low-key individual, people don’t have access to me. I haven’t really met many new people. People who have just recently reached out and I’ve never spoken to them before, I always look at them through the corner of my eye. Why are you here? What do you want from me?
I’ve been blessed to keep my circle small with people who have always been there around me.
Let’s say the NFL doesn’t work out, what would you do?
I’m never going to say the NFL won’t work. It’s been working wonderfully. In 10-12 years from now, I would love to be playing music and getting better at my craft as a guitarist and vocalist.
I would like to get involved in more public speaking obligations. I think my story is unique. The gifts that God has given me are unique. I want to be able to show God through what I can go.
What advice would you give to someone who has dreams of playing professional football?
Go for it. Make sure that you get your education. That’s the biggest thing.
You have these dreams. It wasn’t until it became a realistic opportunity that I was able to say this is going to come true. If it didn’t come through, I would have my education to fall back on.
There are a lot of guys that I know that once this dream ends, they are in an awkward position because they never really got a solid education. The NFL is never guaranteed. The career is not for long. Your education is the only thing that will sustain you if they take anything away from you.
What makes you shine?
I would never want to put God or my parents to shame. I try to model myself in a way that they could look at me and still be proud. That’s my method for success. My parents instilled in me a great work ethic. With that work ethic and no matter what I do, I don’t think I could fail.
What did you think of Caraun’s story? How do you motivate yourself to accomplish those BIG goals you have? COMMENT BELOW!
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