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Reiff ready to roar
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Riley Reiff experienced a sweeping upgrade April 26, going from driving his pickup truck in Parkston, S.D., to riding through Detroit in a limousine. That's the life for first-round selections in the NFL Draft.
"They treated me better than I deserved to be treated," says the shy and humble Reiff, a University of Iowa star who is now an offensive lineman for the Detroit Lions. "It's a top-notch deal. I'm happy to be in Detroit and happy about getting back to work."
Reiff joins former Hawkeye teammates Ryan Donahue (punter) and Amari Spievey (defensive back) on the Lions roster. Last season Detroit won its first five games, finished the regular season 10-6, and lost a Wild Card playoff game to New Orleans, 45-28.
With the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Lions selected Reiff, a 6-foot-6, 300-pounder, who started 37 of 39 games at the UI. From Detroit's perspective, there was plenty to like about Reiff.
"They respect Iowa for being a great football school that plays in the Big Ten Conference," Reiff says. "They really liked the way I was coached in college, and they respect our organization from the head coach to the strength coach to the position coaches."
Reiff is the fourth Hawkeye drafted by the Lions since 1986, when they made quarterback Chuck Long their first-round choice. Detroit also drafted Jared DeVries in the third round in 1999 and Spievey in the third round in 2010.
The day before the draft, Reiff went golfing with family in South Dakota. On the morning of the draft, he spoke at his high school alma mater in Parkston. Later that evening, his cell phone began to buzz. His agent, Neil Cornrich, sent a text telling Reiff that the Lions should be calling. They did.
"The general manager, Martin Mayhew, gave me a call," Reiff says. "He said, 'What do you think about being a Lion?' I said I would be ecstatic. Then (Lions head coach) Jim Schwartz jumped on the phone and then my position coach, George Yarno. It went well."
That conversation put an end to a day of edginess for Reiff, who is typically calm, cool, and collected.
"I'm not a person that gets real nervous, but when I woke up, I started getting pretty nervous," Reiff says. "I tried not to get too stressed out. I always say, whatever happens, happens, and I will be happy with it. I'm super happy to be in Detroit."
On Thursday, May 10, Reiff returns to Detroit to participate in a three-day rookie mini-camp. He has spent most of his post-draft days in Iowa City, training with UI strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
"I came back to Iowa City and started back up Monday (April 30), and I have been training with coach Doyle in the weight room, getting in shape," Reiff says. "There is no better place to train than here. I'm glad coach Doyle is still helping us out."
Between lifting and conditioning, Reiff is learning a new playbook. He says much of the content is the same as what he learned as a Hawkeye, with a few terminology tweaks. It has all made for an exhilarating two weeks for the first of six Hawkeyes taken in the draft.
"I couldn't be happier," Reiff says. "The Lions are a good team, they have a good organization, they have a great owner, and they're improving. They're a team on the rise, and I'm happy to come in and work for them."
One of the first messages Reiff received from his new teammates was from quarterback Matthew Stafford. Last season Stafford completed 63.5 percent of his passes for more than 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. With Reiff on board, Stafford hopes he is sacked fewer than the 36 times he was a year ago.
"He has reached out and said he was glad I was here," Reiff says. "He said we're going to take this team to the top."
Reiff is well-versed in competing in the Midwest. He attended high school in South Dakota, college in Iowa, and now his first job is in Michigan.
"(Detroit is) nice, it's close, and people can come watch games," Reiff says.
For Reiff, there is an added benefit to living in Detroit.
"There is a lot of good fishing," he says with a laugh.