There may not be anyone in the history of Lorain County who was better prepared to make a college choice than Columbia’s Nick Milluzzi.
The senior football player and his parents traveled to 15 campuses in six states to make sure he found the right school. He was one of nine Lorain County football players to participate in national signing day ceremonies Wednesday.
“Just going to all the different schools and seeing all the different campuses and meeting so many different coaches … it was a very fun experience,” said Milluzzi, who journeyed to Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Texas and Colorado before settling on the University of Findlay in Ohio. “I went all the way out to Colorado (for) Air Force — that was a big (Division I) FBS offer — but I found a better fit at Findlay, so it all came down to the fit.”
It was equally tough to find a fit for Raiders teammate Brandon Coleman, the 2018 Golden Helmet award winner who had Division I college programs knocking on his door during his freshman year.
Coleman tore his ACL midway through his junior season, but bounced back with a huge senior-year performance.
“Coach (Tom) Kaufman, who was at Syracuse, started talking to me during my freshman year, then he went to Tennessee-Chatanooga and he was still talking to me,” Coleman said. “Then he ended up at Kent State (as the defensive coordinator), so he was always interested in me.
“It was for sure a long, frustrating process the last four years. I’m just so thankful for all the support I’ve gotten from my family, my teammates and my coaches … I’m just happy it’s finally over.
Coleman will play defense for the Golden Flashes, after setting the Lorain County career rushing record during his time at Columbia.
“It’ll be weird for sure, but I think it’ll help me a lot,” Coleman said of not playing both ways. “I think I can reach my potential by just focusing on one side of the ball.”
Joining Coleman as Division I football signees Wednesday were Avon’s Jack Roesch and Elyria Catholic’s Griffin Davies.
Roesch, one of the Eagles’ top linemen on both sides of the ball, was won over by Air Force … and not just athletically.
“I’m excited to play at such a high level and then given the opportunity to serve my country after. It’s something I’ve always dreamed about,” he said. “I considered other schools but once that Air Force offer came, I kind of hopped on that train because I knew that’s what I wanted.”
Davies, a standout defensive lineman for the Panthers, said signing his letter to Ohio University was a long time coming.
“I went down for my first visit last March, then went down in September for a game-day visit and I went down recently for another visit,” he said. “I kept in contact with my recruiting coordinator, who happens to be my d-end coach, throughout the whole time.”
Two county athletes were given preferred walk-on offers from Division I programs — Avon’s Ryan Maloy to Bowling Green and Avon Lake’s Ryan Beckman to Akron.
“I wanted to go to Bowling Green even if I wasn’t playing football,” Maloy said. “They have the major (forensic science) that aligns with my career path. Then I got in contact with a few of their new coaches and they said they would give me a chance to play football. I wasn’t going to pass that up because it was an opportunity I feel I can take advantage of.”
Clearview, which won back-to-back Patriot Athletic Conference titles and earned playoff berths the past two seasons, had two players that were key to that success sign Wednesday morning.
“I always felt like this class was special just because we worked so much harder,” said David Renftle, who will play defensive back at Ashland University. “We were taught that nothing was given, that we needed to work hard and we were going to be great, and that’s what we did.”
Drew Engle was the Clippers’ star running back and decided to continue his career at Valparaiso University, a Division I FCS program.
“Going into the summer I know I’m going to have to work really hard, push myself in the weight room and with conditioning,” Engle said. “College football is no joke, and it’s going to hit you right away, so I have to be prepared for it.”
The other two area football players to sign Wednesday were Lorain’s Zach Evans to Tiffin University and Amherst’s Nathan Soto to Lake Erie College — both Division II programs.
“My dream was always to play Division I football but that never really materialized,” Soto said. “I’m very happy with my decision today and looking forward to playing at Lake Erie next season. I thought it was the best fit for me academically and financially. I built a really good relationship with the coaches — they really made me feel wanted.”
The nine joined a handful of football players that signed during the early signing period in December, pushing the area total to double digits — a number that has become the annual norm for Lorain County.
“There’s a lot of good football around here. Everybody loves competing against each other and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Evans said. “Everybody’s goal is to play in college and I’m just blessed to be able to fulfill my dream to do so.”