Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow days could keep Clyde seniors Gabe Gilbert and Trevor Strickland Wednesday from sending their letters of intent, the official commitment at the end of the college football recruitment process.
Gilbert said he decided on Toledo in mid-August to get the decision out of the way before football season began. With school canceled Wednesday on account of snow and ice, a Clyde assistant coach faxed from his home Gilbert's signed letter to Toledo, finalizing his commitment to the Rockets. He plans to study guidance counseling.
"It was definitely nice," Gilbert said. "You just enjoy it, enjoy life, enjoy being a teenager, and just relax while other seniors still have no idea where they're going."
He chose Toledo over other schools -- including an offer from Akron, also in the Mid-American Conference -- because of the family atmosphere, he said.
"Seeing them when I went to camps around the summer, Every coach knew my name, was interested in how I was doing and how my family was doing," Gilbert said.
He's slotted as a linebacker for the Rockets, though his role may change. Gilbert said that a Toledo coach pulled him aside and told him not to be surprised if he ended up playing offense.
Strickland committed to Youngstown State of the FCS (formerly Division I-AA), where he will play defensive end and study exercise science and athletic training.
"It's amazing. Pretty much a dream come true," Strickland said. "I never thought I'd be in this position -- I usually skip school that Wednesday to watch people signing, but I never thought I'd be a part of it."
Strickland had signed the letter on Tuesday. A coach from Youngstown State called Strickland at 9 a.m. Wednesday to congratulate him.
"I really didn't think much when I was signing it, but when he called, it was like, I can't believe it's finally happened," Strickland said.
Strickland and Gilbert went to football camps over the summer. When coaches started talking to Strickland and leaving their cards with him, he began to realize that college football was a real possibility. He had thought the winter before that he'd have to advance to college wrestling, if anything.
"That just made me work even harder in the weight room to do better on the field," he said.
Strickland also drew attention from Miami (Ohio) and Toledo as well as Ashland, Notre Dame College (Ohio) and Lake Erie College. Toledo wanted him to gain weight, and maybe move to the offensive line, but Strickland didn't want that.
The usual signing-day ritual -- in school, in the morning, with a few invited guests, teammates and family members -- was buried in the snow. Clyde head coach Marc Gibson said he still plans on recognizing the two when school resumes.
"We do make (signing) a big deal, because it is -- especially with a full ride," Gibson said. "It's a lottery. It's worth tens of thousands of dollars."
The colleges were more concerned than the players about the abnormal sign-and-submit process, Gibson said.
"They're just as nervous as anyone right now to try and get the kids," he said.
"Colleges want their kids. They have a list. Up until (the recruits sign), the kids can change their mind. If you don't get them, there's going to be concern. Just so it's finalized. It's legit. That's the biggest concern on the coaches' minds right now."
Many of the top recruits with offers from multiple schools will not sign today, Gibson said.
"The big thing is, they're just like every other school right now," he said. "It's the first, but certainly not the last, day kids will sign."
Around the storm-battered midwest with wide school cancellations, recruits have gone to businesses, or even churches, in an attempt to find a fax machine and get their letter to the university.
Gilbert's and Strickland's Clyde teammates, receiver Mac Wilkerson and utility fleetback/kicker Jordan Colson, will also play football at the next level. Colson will play for Notre Dame College, while Wilkerson is still deciding between Findlay and Notre Dame College, depending on their offers.