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NFL players proud to represent South Dakota

Wearing Riley Reiff jerseys, Rodger and Sandy Brandt, of Avon, talk to Cindy Cihak, also of Avon, during Sunday's Vikings-Lions game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Reiff is a Parkston native. (Luke Hagen/Republic)

MINNEAPOLIS – There was a familiar face lined up across from Riley Reiff, someone who has given him advice and traveled a similar path to the NFL.   Reiff, a Parkston native, wrapped up his second season as an NFL player Sunday with the Detroit Lions going head to head with Mount Vernon native and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway. Twice a year, the pair of South Dakotans take the field against each other in an NFC North Divisional matchup. This time, the contest between Reiff’s Lions and Greenway’s Vikings resulted in a back-and-forth battle that the Vikings won 14-13. “I’m real close to Chad,” Reiff said. “He’s a great guy and I can’t say enough about him. I talked to him after and during the game. He had a great season.” Both went to college at Iowa, became All-Americans for the Hawkeyes and were first-round draft picks to the NFL. Each time Reiff took the field with the Lions’ offense Sunday, Greenway was there with the Vikings’ defense. The two saw a few battles in the trenches, but were usually separated on the field. “It was sort of the normal stuff for me going up against a tackle,” Greenway said. “It wasn’t any more than normal. I talked to some of their coaching staff that I’ve known for a number of years before the game. They’re so happy with how he progressed.” In head-to-head competition the past two years, the Vikings have won three of the four games against the Lions. Greenway and the Vikings won both 2012 meetings, and again on Sunday, while Reiff and the Lions won the season opener this year, 34-24, on Sept. 8 at Ford Field in Detroit. While Reiff and Greenway remain in the league and continue to both play in the NFC North Division, fans in South Dakota will continue to watch the duo battle twice a year. “It’s great for the fans of South Dakota and great for the young people of South Dakota to look at a game and see two players who grew up from pretty humble places and see the dream that we had to play in the NFL and understand that it’s a lot of work,” Greenway said. “That’s what it is really all about, playing the game with integrity and creating a good example for the youth of South Dakota to live by and try to live up to.” Sunday’s game was Reiff’s second time playing in the Metrodome since entering the NFL and the fourth time his Lions have matched up against the Vikings since he was selected in the first round of the April 2012 NFL Draft. Last year as a rookie, Reiff started both games against Minnesota as a blocking tight end, while this year he took over at left tackle and manned that spot on the offensive line both times. Reiff’s main goal Sunday was to stop Vikings standout defensive end Jared Allen, who finished with two sacks in what could be his final game with Minnesota. Allen, a 10-year pro, is a free agent entering the offseason and complimented Reiff after the game. “I think he’s a good, young player,” Allen said. “I was able to get a couple (sacks) today. Reiff has a bright future. I’m not an offensive line coach, but he shut me out the first time we played. I was ready to get back at him today.” Reiff started all 16 games this year for the Lions. In two years, he’s played in 31 games and started 23. Despite playing a position that doesn’t have the flash of a wide receiver or running back, Reiff had a noticeable amount of fans in the stadium showing support by wearing his jersey.   “It’s great having a lot of support,” Reiff said. “I’m a big fan of South Dakota and will always stand by it. Having a lot of people here means a lot to me. I just wish we could have got the win. I try to represent that state in a way the people should be represented. That’s by hard work, dedication and giving everything you have. I’m really proud to be from South Dakota.” Rodger Brandt, 57, of Avon, was wearing his Reiff jersey. His wife, Sandy, and sister-in-law, Cindy Cihak, were sitting with him in the Metrodome’s lower bowl wearing light blue and white jerseys with Reiff’s No. 71 on their backs.   Brandt was attending the game, his fifth time at the dome, after taking a bus to the stadium with several other South Dakotans. Brandt played high school football with Riley’s father, Tom Reiff, at Avon High School, and watched both Reiff and Greenway play high school football. “I think this is great to have two guys from South Dakota out there,” Brandt said. “It does inspire the kids from our area more, knowing that someone from a small town can make it. It kind of puts South Dakota on the map.”