"We were approached many years ago to host a player for the game, because we are good friends with the person that organizes that program," Cinny Parrish said. "But due to sports in our own family, Big 33 week was the only time we could get away for our vacations and such, so we weren't able to do it. But as our children grew older (eldest son Mike is now a student assistant at West Virginia), we were able to fit it into our schedule.
"The first player we had went to Michigan, and at the time Mike was interested in going Michigan," Cinny continued. "But since then we've had almost all West Virginia players. It's been a great experience to have them here, to visit with them and get to know them."
This year broke the family's streak of WVU hosting, however. The Parrishes were slated to host Steve Slaton, but he enrolled at West Virginia for the second semester of summer school, and could not get away for the week-long session required of Big 33 participants. Instead, the Parrishes hosted Pennsylvania defensive lineman Malik Newman, who is still undecided as to his college choice. That didn't stop the family from hosting their annual Big 33 picnic, however, which was attended by a number of friends and family members, as well as Big 33 participants Tim Reed, Carmen Connolly and their families. And even though Slaton was unable to break free from Morgantown, his parents and older brother were there to represent him in spirit.
Bill was born and raised in Mannington, W. Va., and after attending medical school at WVU, landed in Hershey, where he now helps rebuild bones in cancer patients. Bill works at the Hershey Medical Center, which is just few long bombs away from HersheyPark Stadium, home of the Big 33. Cinny, while not quite as homegrown as Bill, also has a number of West Virginia ties.
"Both my parents were born and raised in the eastern panhandle, and I lived in Shepherdstown as a child," she detailed while cooking a pregame meal for Newman. "I also spent summers with my grandparents in Romney. When I got ready to college, I was living in New Jersey, but there were no physical therapy schools there, so I went back to my roots."
Those Mountain State ties also yielded the basis for her family, as she met Bill in physical therapy school at WVU. They stayed in Morgantown while Bill went on to medical school and did his internship. After moving to Hershey, where her two sons and daughter grew up, it soon came time for Mike to pick his college. And while he looked at different options, he always had West Virginia on his mind.
"In Mike's heart, he really knew where he wanted to go," Cinny said. "We encouraged him to look at other opportunities, and he had some Division III football offers, but when it came down to it, he wanted to go to West Virginia. He was able to talk to Coach Rod at the Big 33 banquet and told him he was interested in working with the team, and his persistence finally got him a slot there."
All those ties made it a natural for the family to host West Virginia-bound players at the Big 33, and Cinny says that the family ends up getting just as much out of it as the players do. Rachid Stoury, Adam Bednarik and Mortty Ivy have all called the Parrish house home during Big 33 week, while many others, such as Grant Wiley and his family, have also become friends.
"It's interesting to see their backgrounds," Cinny said of the different people that have crossed their doorstep. "We get to find out where they come from and what their hopes and dreams are, and to share some of that. It's a very quick week – in a lot of ways we'd like to spend more time with them. We drop them off at eight in the morning and usually don't pick them up until nine at night. But we still get to learn about them, and end up having a lot of late night talks and early morning discussions.
"Getting to know them and their families is one of the biggest benefits, and we've also had some players with some unusual backgrounds. Rachid is a good example. He had come from Morocco and worked really hard to make the most of his chance, so we were really excited to have him. We always look forward to learning about people with different backgrounds, and it's just a great experience."