COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Kerry Coombs is entering his 35th season of coaching football, but the start of National Signing Day Wednesday morning proved there’s a first for everything.
The Ohio State assistant coach was at the football office inside the Woody Hayes Athletics Center when he learned Colerain defensive back Amir Riep was at the door to personally deliver his letter of intent to play for the Buckeyes.
"I have never heard of any kid doing that before," Coombs told WCPO.com. "It was a complete surprise to me. I had no idea. And I got to be honest with you -- I thought it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen."
Most players email those forms on National Signing Day, the first day most commonly known that high school football players sign binding agreements to attend an NCAA institution.
Riep, a unanimous four-star prospect with more than 40 scholarship offers, woke up at 5 a.m. Wednesday and hopped in the car with his father, Maurice Riep, for a road trip to Columbus.
"I just was thinking of something that hasn’t been done yet so me and my dad just came up with the idea of why not going up to the university and hand deliver it ourselves," Amir Riep told WCPO.com.
Riep and his father came up with the idea on Monday. Coombs, the former University of Cincinnati assistant and longtime Colerain head coach, had to check with compliance to be sure this special delivery could be completed under NCAA rules.
When the situation was approved, an Ohio State compliance official had to verify the letter of intent was official before letting Riep inside the facility.
The green light was given at 7:01 a.m., and Riep was able to walk into Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s office to deliver the letter.
"It was really cool," Coombs said. "Urban didn’t know. I said, ‘hey coach, we have a special delivery.’ Because we were getting all the emails (from the signees). And here’s a guy walking right in."
Riep was able to watch the Ohio State defensive backs utilize a strength workout. He also posed for a photo with Coombs.
"We had a great morning," Coombs said. "It was a blast."
Back on Cheviot Road, Colerain had 14 players sign letters of intent at 7 a.m. Wednesday. The school had arranged for Riep’s name placard and letter of intent paperwork like the other players. It was only about 45 minutes before the ceremony that the arrangements were changed knowing Riep wouldn't be at the school gymnasium.
An hour before the Colerain ceremony, Coombs received a phone call from Colerain coach Tom Bolden around 6 a.m. Coombs' eyebrows were raised for a moment hearing Bolden's voice.
"When Tommy called me and said, ‘hey, we got a situation here,’" Coombs told WCPO.com. "And the second sentence is, ‘I’m not sure about Amir.' You have to wonder what I was feeling. I was like, ‘whoa, what situation?’" Coombs said with a laugh.
For Bolden, who took over for Coombs as the Colerain coach in 2006, it was a first occurrence for him to have a player hand-deliver a letter of intent. He admitted to adding a few more gray hairs earlier Wednesday morning. Bolden and Coombs have a close relationship and the Ohio State assistant didn't doubt his former assistant would alert him of a serious situation.
Still, it shook things up for Bolden a bit before the school ceremony. But after the ceremony ended, he smiled.
Riep attended the Greater Miami Conference ceremony at Beacon Orthopaedics in Sharonville in the early afternoon and Bolden proudly recognized him among the other Cardinals.
"All these years I’ve been doing it and 10 years as the head coach and the ceremonies never go off as planned," said Bolden, who has had to help past players with letters of intent when snow canceled school and the ceremony. "I guess that’s what makes it special."
Riep told WCPO.com that Meyer was happy with his effort to drive from Cincinnati to Columbus. Coombs has always liked Riep's competitiveness on the field so this coincided well with that fact.
Riep wore his Ohio State hat and jacket as he left Sharonville mid-Wednesday afternoon and got into his car. He checked a few messages on his phone before leaving Beacon as a Buckeye. He got on Interstate 275 to his next destination on such a memorable day.
"I am very proud to wear Scarlet and Gray," Riep said. "It’s a dream come true."