An unforgettable moment


RIGGINS, ID – The Salmon River High School class of 2014 has an NFL first round pick and coming from a town of just over 400 people, support for Leighton Vander Esch runs deep in the small community.

Thursday, April 26th, 2018. A date that no one from Riggins, Idaho will forget.

“Riggins, Idaho, Salmon River Inn,” That’s what Salmon River High School assistant football coach Ty Medley said when asked where he’ll tell his children when they ask where was he, during this big day. “Home for Leighton Vander Esch.”

Medley is Vander Esch’s brother in-law.

“It’s pretty surreal to have this going on in Salmon River,” Salmon River High School athletic director Paula Tucker said.

Riggins is located west of the Salmon River and is known as the “White water rafting capital of Idaho.”

But on this day, rafting was an afterthought.

Citizens packed the Salmon River Inn and even traveled just to be a part of this day.

One person was from Lewiston another came up from Boise.

A sea of blue for Leighton Vander Esch.

LVE is a legend around Riggins, his name is plastered all over state title trophies at SRHS.

But if you ask around town, everyone knew he was going to do great things once he left.

“I knew he was going to go places,” SRHS junior Chevelle Shepard said. “I was the water girl!”

“I knew he was talented from the start,” Chad Shaw said. Shaw grew up in Riggins but now lives in Lewiston. He one of the people who traveled for this event. “When you see a kid who can jump like that as a freshman, and you're like holy cow that guy is an athlete."

Although his accolades didn’t stop while at SRHS, he never forgot where he came from.

“I keep a close eye on him,” Tucker said. Vander Esch is dating her granddaughter.

“It's crazy seeing Leighton. It's great seeing a kid represent 8-man football," Canyon Harper said.

Harper was an all-state player as a junior for SRHS.

“He’s one of my role models,” Shepard said.

As they waited and waited in anticipation to see one of their sons on the national scale, it happened.

“With the 19th pick of the 2018 NFL Draft,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on the draft stage in Dallas, Texas. “The Dallas Cowboys select.”

The room feel silent in anticipation, for the first time all night.

Then Goodell said the words everyone in the town of 400 was waiting to hear: “Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker, Boise State.”

As the crowd cheered and tears spilled out, every proud of LVE, chanting “We are proud of you.”

“He’s a great person and athlete,” Shepard said while still processing this moment. “He’s who I want to be now.”

14 seconds, one sentence, a moment no one from the white-water capital of Idaho will forget.

From 8-man football, to walking on to Boise State, to being a Dallas Cowboy.

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