When a shoulder injury forced Iona Prep (New Rochelle, N.Y.) quarterback Mario Biaggi out of a Sept. 23 matchup with Monsignor Farrell (Staten Island, N.Y.), the Gaels weren't worried. In stepped senior Justin Combs, who threw for 163 yards and totaled three touchdowns during a 28-7 win. Having the spotlight as well as success at multiple positions is nothing new for Combs though, especially when you consider who his dad is.
This story originally appeared in the October issue of ESPNHS magazine.
Justin Combs has heard his share of trash talk while attending football camps and combines. Of course, that'll happen when your dad is hip-hop mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs and your 16th birthday was televised on MTV.
The Iona Prep senior has put up with opponents reciting his dad's lyrics during one-on-one drills and players questioning whether he even deserves to be on the field.
“I've had to go harder than anybody else to prove that I belong because most people think I have everything handed to me," Combs says. "I had to prove them wrong."
He's done a good job of that. The 5-foot-9, 165-pounder is a star quarterback, cornerback and kick returner for Iona Prep, and he has received scholarship offers from D-I programs like Virginia, UCLA and Illinois.
Combs has put in the work on the field (he's a two-way starter) and in the classroom (he boasts a 3.7 GPA), so he's now beginning to emerge from his father's shadow.
"I'm extremely proud of him," Diddy says, "due to the fact that he didn't use any celebrity to get to where he's at."
“He’s a good student, and when he’s not doing that, he’s spending every other minute on football,” adds Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo, who’s in his eighth season at the Gaels' helm. “He’s really dedicated himself. Justin is true to himself, and the kids respect him for it. I don’t know anyone who’s dedicated himself to improving in football like he has. He’s the whole package, and it’s a pleasure to have him.”
This summer, Combs trained seven days a week doing position drills, running on the track and lifting weights to prepare for his senior season. He’s serious about succeeding on the gridiron both this year and when he gets to college.
“It was my dream to play football,” he says. “Football is my first love.”
As for the music industry, Combs says he’s never had any interest in following in his father’s footsteps. His studio is the football field, where he’s starting to make a name for himself. And not just because of who his dad is.