"They tried getting me to go pretty hard," Reiff said Friday. "But I love South Dakota, I love Parkston. I wanted to spend it with my family."
Especially, his 92-year-old grandfather, Lloyd Reiff.
Reiff was in his parents' pole barn, which was recently constructed to replace a 100-year-old barn, in Parkston, S.D., when Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew called to say the team was taking him No. 23 overall Thursday night. About five minutes later, he joined the rest of his family, when the pick was announced on TV.
"It means a lot that Riley decided he'd rather be home with family and friends," Jo Reiff said while her son was surrounded by Detroit-area reporters. "He's pretty close with his grandpa and grandma Reiff. His grandpa has been in and out of the hospital the past two years. Every time, he told the doctors that he had to get out in time to see where his grandson was going to be drafted. A couple times last night he nodded off, but he was wide awake when Riley was drafted."
The former Iowa standout acknowledged being nervous on the day of the draft and while serving as the center of attention the next day during a news conference at Lions headquarters.
Reiff, though, is comfortable playing multiple positions on the offensive line.
"We see him as a guy that has a possibility of playing pretty soon for us," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.
Reiff briefly talked with 34-year-old left tackle Jeff Backus, whom he might eventually replace.
"He was a great guy, very welcoming," he said. "I'm looking forward to learning under him."
The athletic Reiff was a three-time state wrestling champion and played tight end in high school. He was a defensive lineman when he went to Iowa.
Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz asked Reiff if he wanted to move to the other side of the ball and he jumped at the opportunity, moving to the offensive line early in his freshman season. He did enough to be able to skip his senior season as a 6-foot-5, 313-pound highly touted offensive tackle.
"This is a guy that's been highly productive in a major level of competition in a program that's produced a lot of really good offensive linemen," Schwartz said. "He has the skill set to fit not only the left tackle position, but be a multidimensional player."
Reiff's decision to stay home for his big night allowed his mother to buy new furniture for the first time in 14 years. It also gave him, his two younger brothers and some high school friends something to sit on while telling old stories and listening to music in the pole barn.
"I had been saving money to buy plane tickets for New York," Jo Reiff said. "When he decided not to go, I got new furniture and the old couches had to go somewhere. It worked out good."
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