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Large crowd gathers to see area native be drafted to NFL

(Chris Huber/Republic) Riley Reiff fans anxiously watch the television at Boog's & Co. in Parkston during the NFL draft Thursday night.

PARKSTON -- A packed crowd at the Boog's & Co. bar in Parkston erupted Thursday night as Riley Reiff was announced as the 23rd selection in the 2012 NFL Draft by Madden 2013 cover athlete Calvin Johnson.

Reiff will continue his football career as a member of the Detroit Lions.

The bar was filled with many throughout the community excited to see one of their own be selected in the draft.

The draft began at 7 p.m. and Deb Welch said when she arrived at 5 p.m., most of the seating had been taken for the draft party hosted by the bar.

"This is unbelievable," she said. "I guess I don't understand the magnitude of all this."

The large crowd didn't come as a surprise to several in attendance.

"This happens once in a lifetime," Parkston native J.R. Heidinger said.

Before Reiff was selected by Detroit, some said their favorite team could be changing, and after the selection the crowd was filled with cheers of "Let's go Lions!"

Brady Nolz, a friend and former teammate of Reiff, said "Friends come before teams."

Nolz, a Dallas Cowboys fan, said he hopes Reiff will be successful no matter who he is playing against.

John Gilman, a former assistant coach to Reiff in wrestling and football, said he'll have mixed emotions when the Lions play his favorite team -- the Chicago Bears -- twice a year.

Pam Vetter made it clear before the draft that her loyalty would change when she said, "I'm a Vikings fan, but wherever he goes will be my new team."

Vetter said she attended many of Reiff's games at Iowa and watched all the others on television with her husband Joel.

Joel said before Reiff went to Iowa, he had never watched college football.

Pam Vetter also said she expects to go watch his games in the NFL.

"Plane tickets don't cost that much," she said.

Welch will also be going to watch Reiff play for the Lions, saying early in the night, "Wherever he goes, I'll be there."

Before Reiff was selected, the crowd reacted to each pick with boos and hisses. The atmosphere was loud, but during selections there was silence up until Johnson declared Reiff the next member of the Lions.

Brent Boehmer said although he didn't have a direct connection with Reiff, he was excited for the draft.

"Just to see somebody from our area be drafted is exciting," he said. "This is what you expect from a Parkston crowd. Everybody gets excited here."

Boehmer admitted the crowd was even bigger than he had anticipated.

"I expected a lot of people, but not this many," he said.

Many in attendance who had connections with Reiff said his character was why so many in the area were supporting him.

"He's just a down to earth, respected gentleman," Pam Vetter said.

J.R. Heidinger agreed that Reiff was very down to earth and was not surprised at Reiff's decision to stay in Parkston with family and friends instead of attending the draft in New York.

"That's classic Riley there," he said. "He doesn't want to be in the limelight."

Nolz said he has stayed in touch with Reiff and doesn't expect him to change his personality after becoming a professional athlete.

"He'll never forget where he came from and who his friends are," Nolz said.

After the draft, Reiff, who was at his home, was thankful for the community's support.

"It's great to have all the people here in Parkston supporting me," he said.