NILES - Many students across the Mahoning Valley were smiling from ear to ear on Wednesday as Mother Nature struck again, canceling school and giving students another snow day for the 2013-14 school year.
However, for five football players in Niles, Wednesday was much more than another snow day - it was the officially beginning to the next chapter of their athletic and academic lives.
Despite the district not having school, Josh Krok, Marcus Hill, Nick Sanchez, Jimmy Mullen and Chris Parry all signed National Letters of Intent to various schools to continue their educations - and continue playing the game they love.
Tribune Chronicle / Dana Sulonen
Niles football players, from left,?Jimmy Mullen (Geneva), Chris Parry (West Virginia University), Josh Krok (Kentucky), Nick Sanchez (Walsh) and Marcus Hill (Edinboro) sign their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday morning at Niles High School.
"I know that (athletic director) Marc Fritz told us in the past six years this is the biggest class we have had," Niles coach Brian Shaner said. "We're pleased, and I know down the road we are going to have some more committing to schools. It's exciting, this is a great senior class, especially academically."
Arguably the biggest recruit in the area this year is Krok - a 6-foot-9, 325-pound offensive lineman. In the summer, Krok had originally verbally committed to West Virginia University. However, just a few weeks ago, he decided to change his destination, and officially signed with the University of Kentucky on Wednesday.
"It's actually really over now," Krok said with a sigh of relief. "I didn't really worry about it (the process), I knew I was going to go where I felt the most comfortable."
While Krok had his mind made up a few weeks back, other teammates didn't have it so lucky. Wide receiver Marcus Hill, who will be extending his playing career at Edinboro, was a little overwhelmed, yet very excited, about the whole recruiting process.
"I was more excited than anything. I liked the process," Hill said. "It was a little overwhelming, but I'm happy I've decided where I'm going to go."
On the defensive side of the ball, both Sanchez and Mullen also chose the small-school route. For Sanchez, a linebacker that will play at Walsh University, said after his visit, he knew he had found his home for the next four years.
"I was really excited to do this," Sanchez said. "They have a nice, young coaching staff and they brought in a lot of players from the area. It was a good fit."
Mullen, a safety, will be donning the black and gold next year at Geneva College. For him, signing day and the thought of playing football at the next level is something he has always wanted to accomplish.
"It was exciting, I'm going to college to play football," Mullen said. "This is what I've always wanted to do."
For Chris Parry, his route to playing collegiate football will take a slightly different path than his four teammates. Parry, a 5-10 receiver, had offers from schools such as Walsh and Mercyhurst, but for a variety of reasons, he decided to go as a preferred walk-on at Division I, Big 12, West Virginia University. As a preferred walk-on, he has an invitation to camp in August with the team and will try to compete for a spot on the team.
Though he will have to work maybe harder than many other on-scholarship freshmen, Parry is ready for the challenge.
"At the end of the day I realized that I would regret it if I didn't try the preferred walk-on and give it a shot," Parry said. "I've always liked a challenge and to work for what I get."