Six sensational Fitch student-athletes signed their college letters of intent to continue their football careers at a press conference held in the school's media center on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
The crown jewel of the Fitch class was mammoth defensive lineman Billy Price who signed his intent to become a member of The Ohio State University. The five other Falcons who made their intentions known on National Letter of Intent Day were quarterback Matt Futkos, who agreed to join Clarion University; linebacker Deven Gray, who will go to Walsh University; running back/defensive back Anthony Smith, who signed with William Penn University in Iowa; and offensive lineman Mike Koch and running back/defensive back Billy Aaron, who both will attend Notre Dame College in Cleveland. Being able to send off such stalwart student/athletes made Fitch head coach Phil Annarella strut around the media center like a proud papa.
"These kids are great in the classroom first and on the field second," Annarella said authoritatively. "These young men mean a lot to the Fitch program."
Perhaps no player has meant more to the Falcons in recent years than Price. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound behemoth was a bulldozer along Fitch's front seven earning defensive player of the year honors in Division I as well as 1st team All-State and All-Northeast Ohio nods. Just about every school that finished in the Top 20 in 2012 had the top 20 recruit on its radar. He chose Ohio State because he thinks that is basically what every red-blooded Buckeye State-born boy should do.
"I am extremely blessed to be given this opportunity," said Price amongst his family and friends last Wednesday morning. "When you grow up in Ohio, you should be a Buckeye. It is an amazing atmosphere (in Columbus). Being a Buckeye is a huge responsibility."
Playing at smaller Clarion may not carry with it the same burdens as being a Buckeye, but for Fitch's former signal-caller, it is very important as well.
"I'm happy with my decision," said special mention All-State and 1st team All-Northeast Ohio selection Futkos. "(Clarion) is close to home and there is a tight bond there."
Koch, Aaron and Gray all shared the sentiments of their former team captain when discussing the proximity of their respective colleges to Austintown.
"It was important for me to be close to home," said the Walsh-bound Gray.
Gray was a two-time letterman at Fitch as was Koch. Aaron earned that same honor three times. Smith was twice bestowed a letter at Fitch and decided to play at the Iowa college because it gave him the best opportunity to play immediately.
Playing as a freshman may not be imminent for Price, but it certainly is something that could happen since the Buckeyes need to replace a lot of their defensive line. One of the graduates is former Cardinal Mooney standout John Simon who is someone Price will try to emulate by wearing his same jersey number. The future NFL employee has been a big help to Price and the new Buckeye will certainly try to do everything Simon says.
"On my visit (to OSU) he helped me put a lot of things into perspective," Price said about Simon. "I'm willing to take on the task of filling his shoes."
With Futkos leaving Fitch, coach Annarella will have to search hard to find someone to fill his quarterbacking shoes. One thing that always stood out about Futkos was his ability to take over a huddle. He plans on staying that forceful at Clarion.
"Being a leader is something Clarion's coaches liked about me," Futkos said proudly. "They use the same offense there as we did at Fitch so it will be an easier transition for me. I'll have a chance to come in and compete right away."
If there was one common theme amongst all of the signees last Wednesday it was the family atmosphere they received at Fitch. That love was the springboard to the future success each kid has coming to them.
"The people at Fitch helped so much," Futkos said in unison with Gray.
Price took it one step further by comparing his coach in Austintown to the highly regarded one who will oversee his career in Columbus.
"Coach Annarella was phenomenal," he bragged. "The way he goes about his business and takes care of us is very similar to coach (Urban) Meyer (at OSU)."
Now Price along with his Fitch brothers Futkos, Aaron, Koch, Gray and Smith look to take care of business in the next chapter of their playing careers.