When the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots finally made their first pick in the third round of Friday’s NFL draft, the selection drew some extra applause from some fans in central Maine.

With the 83rd overall pick, the Patriots selected Derek Rivers, a defensive end from Youngstown State who was born in Augusta. He is the son of Augusta native Mary Leinonen.

Rivers was raised in North Carolina, having left Maine at 5 months old.

NFL draft analyst Chad Reuter, in grading the Patriots’ picks, described the 6-foot-4, 248-pound Rivers as “an exciting pass rusher with stand-up/hand-down versatility.”

Rivers was unable to comment Monday, a Patriots spokesperson said, because team rules prohibit rookies from speaking with the media until taking part in official team and NFL activities.

Leinonen was with her son Friday when he received the call from the Patriots. The family was holding a draft party in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Some draft pundits predicted Rivers would go in the second round, but when the second round came and went and his name had not been called, Leinonen said her son became nervous.

“The draft is not a fun process,” she said in a phone interview from North Carolina. “I was hoping he was handling it well. I gave him some time alone.”

Leinonen said she joined Rivers on a patio, where she told him everything would be fine, and patted her son on the back.

Soon after, his phone rang. She watched as he took the call.

“He whispered to me, ‘Patriots,’ and I did a little jig,” she said.

Mother and son went back inside to the party, where they kept their secret and waited a few anxious minutes to see Derek’s draft announcement on television.

At her home in Chelsea, Sandra Leinonen-Dunn watched the draft and waited for her nephew’s name to be called. Sandra said she knew Derek had visited a number of teams, any one of which could select him.

“He’d been all over the country to do these interviews,” Leinonen-Dunn said. “When I saw the Patriots, I just started screaming … It was really, truly miraculous.”

Rivers has visited his family in Maine numerous times. Leinonen-Dunn recalled her nephew enjoying lobster and other seafood. He also enjoyed his winter visits, when he was able to make snowmen, Leinonen-Dunn said.

“He’s just a decent human being and he sees this as a blessing,” said Leinonen-Dunn, a longtime art teacher at Chelsea Elementary School.

Leinonen said she’s excited her son will live his dream of being a professional football player.

“I didn’t really care what team he went to. He didn’t care, either, he just wanted the chance,” she said. “The Patriots was a nice surprise.”

Rivers was the third player drafted from a Football Championship Subdivision school, behind Tanoh Kpassagnon, a defensive end from Villanova who went to the Kansas City Chiefs with the 59th pick, and Cooper Kupp, a wide receiver from Eastern Washington selected by the Los Angeles Rams with the 69th pick.

As a senior last fall, Rivers helped Youngstown State reach the FCS championship game, where the Penguins lost to James Madison. Rivers had 58 tackles and 15 sacks last season. He leaves Youngstown State with school records for sacks (41) and tackles for a loss (56.5).

He was a three-time first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference selection and was named to the Associated Press FCS All-America second team as a senior.

The Patriots will hold rookie mini-camp this weekend at Gillette Stadium, where undrafted free agents and draft picks will work out for three days. Organized team activities will follow later in May before a mandatory mini-camp in June.

Leinonen-Dunn said she’s eager to follow the next step of Rivers’ football career.

“I went down to see him play in North Carolina and Ohio,” Leinonen-Dunn said. “I’m very excited to see him play (at Gillette Stadium).”

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