When Prep Rally last took stock in Justin Combs, the son of one Sean "Diddy" Combs, he was competing with his Iona (N.Y.) Prep School teammates for the New York City Catholic High School Football League title.
At the time, Combs was the starting cornerback and backup quarterback for Iona Prep, which fell to St. Anthony's (N.Y.) School, 41-23, in the CHSFL title game in November. Since then he's rocketed through two different echelons of prep recruits, first gaining attention from mid-major Division I programs like Wyoming, Middle Tennessee State and UAB.
Yet suddenly, after a series of impressive performances at national 7-on-7 events, the younger Combs is emerging as a legitimate power conference Division I prospect, with the likes of Illinois and Virginia stepping forward. According to TheSportsBank.net, Illinois is in the process of extending Combs a scholarship offer, and a host of coaches in the Big 12 and Pac-12 are also allegedly doing their due diligence on the teen to determine if he might be worth a scholarship from their programs, as well.
According to Rivals.com football recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt -- who watched Combs at the Badger 7-on-7 in Pittsburgh in April -- landing at a BCS school might be a stretch for Combs, but he's definitely on the way to a scholarship at a Division I college somewhere.
"He's definitely undersized for the position [listed at 5-9, 170, he looked shorter than that]," Helmholdt told Prep Rally. "Combine that with who his father is and Justin has a hard time being taken seriously as a college football prospect. He played on the 'Goon Squad' team with four-star recruits Zeke Pike, Deaysean Rippy and Armani Reeves.
"Playing the opposite corner of Reeves he saw a lot of passes thrown his way and more than held his own. I want to say he finished the event with three or four interceptions. Only one other kid that weekend had more interceptions than Justin that I know of."
As much as his play on the field has helped Combs get attention from prominent college football coaches, Helmholdt said that his attitude and work ethic may be what helps convince coaches to take a chance on his future development.
"Word circulated quickly among the players at the event who he was," Helmholdt said. "Several kids told me they were going after 'P-Diddy's kid' and he got a lot of trash talked his way, but he just put his head down, kept his mouth shut and played hard. It was evident he wanted to keep a low profile and was hoping to just be one of the guys.
"We expect [and have seen in the past] kids with famous fathers come out with the attitude that they are owed something, but you could tell Justin wanted to be noticed for his play on the field and not his last name. He handled himself with class and worked hard, finishing with a strong showing at that event. I was not really aware of him before the Badger 7-on-7, but you had to respect what he did considering the trash talk that came his way and other kids giving him their best shot."
That approach certainly fits with what the younger Combs told the New York Daily News in November about his role in the Iona Prep program.
"I don't want to be treated different from anyone else. [...] I want to have the same treatment. I love exactly the way [Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo] put me through everything because it taught me just to work hard to move up the ranks and it taught me life lessons."
It's clear that Helmholdt isn't the only one respecting Diddy's son, now that the likes of UCLA, Arizona State and the aforementioned Illini are knocking on his door. If he does land at one of those programs after his senior season with the Gaels, Combs will have one thing that will make him stand out from his fellow student athletes: He can roll up to practice in his own Maybach.