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Carolina Panthers

Reiff ready to join NFL family


Riley Reiff doesn't pattern his game after anyone in particular, but the burly offensive tackle does like to study former Iowa linemen in action.

That leaves him with plenty of film to study.

Reiff is poised to become the 12th Iowa lineman drafted since Kirk Ferentz took over as the Hawkeyes' head coach in 1999, and he's likely to become the third one picked in the first round.

"Iowa has been known for their offensive linemen for a while, and Coach Ferentz is a big part of that," Reiff said. "He's just a great coach, and you've got Coach (Chris) Doyle in the weight room (who was hired when Ferentz was hired). I think that's what leads to that success."

Ferentz is known for unearthing diamonds in the rough for his massive offensive fronts, and Reiff certainly qualifies. Reiff was considered the best player in his home state as a high school senior, but he hails from South Dakota and was known for his wrestling ability as much as anything.

Reiff starred at defensive end and tight end for his high school football team, but he truly shined on the mat, winning three state championships and 121 of his 122 career matches.

His wrestling experiences helped him eventually excel along the offensive line.

"Wrestling is a big endurance sport. But it's not only endurance, it's mental toughness, too, that carries over to the football field," Reiff said. "Also your hands, your use of your hands. And footwork."

!Ferentz recruited Reiff to play defensive end before deciding to move him to tight end, but Reiff ended up on the offensive line after gaining 30 pounds during his redshirt year. Reiff has put on 30-plus more pounds since and will enter the draft at 6-6, 313 pounds.

Fellow Iowa offensive linemen like Bryan Buluga, a first-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2010 who become the youngest player to start in a Super Bowl, helped Reiff develop into a first-round talent.

But so did teammates on the other side of the ball, players like defensive end Adrian Clayborn, a first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 who had 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles as a rookie.

"Adrian was a great player and great competitor," Reiff said. "He worked hard every play. He never took a play off.

"It helped me improve, and I'm sure it helped him improve."

Competition runs rampant in the Reiff household, with a couple of younger brothers following in his footsteps. Eric Reiff, who is deaf, won a state wrestling championship of his own a year ago, and Brady Reiff qualified for the state tournament as a freshman this year.

The Reiff brothers are just a small part of their big family get-togethers. Their grandmother, recently deceased, had 19 children and 55 grandchildren.

Reiff's football family at Iowa was even bigger, but he made the difficult decision to leave them behind with one year of eligibility remaining to join another sizable group: former Iowa linemen drafted into the NFL.

"It was extremely tough," Reiff said. "The coaching staff was great there, and my best friends were on the team. It was tough saying goodbye, but I'm ready to take the next step and play with the best."

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