CATAWBA – As a young boy, Justin McCombs always enjoyed watching the examples and lessons his father, Eric, provided about how to get things done.
In about a month — in-a-follow-in-dad’s footsteps story — the younger McCombs is going down the same path.
McCombs, 28 and a former wide receiver at Bandys High and at Lenoir-Rhyne University, has accepted a teaching and coaching position – for football and possibly for other sports to be determined – at Rocky River High in Charlotte.
He starts August 16.
“I’ve always told everyone that my dad was my biggest role model,” Justin McCombs said on Monday night. “It’s crazy that it’s fallen out like this. It’s worked out well for him and (their relationship) helps a lot.”
Eric McCombs, now 54, played football at Bandys for four seasons – junior varsity for two years (starting in 1977) and two varsity years (1979 and 1980) – and after college (Appalachian State) he first worked in business.
Known for his good nature, always having a big smile and a nice greeting waiting, he enjoyed success.
But football was still always one of Eric’s big loves—his career got cut short at Appalachian State because of a knee injury — and that passion never really left his blood.
For 21 years, the elder McCombs made a mark in top-flight businesses in the area. He then gave all that up to become a teacher and coach, going back to his alma mater to teach business in 2008.
He will begin his 10th year on the Bandys coaching staff this season, though he will be slowed a bit by the third surgery on the knee he hurt playing football in college.
On Aug. 18, when Eric is with the Trojans for their season-opening game at St. Stephens, his son will be a few miles down the road at South Iredell as Rocky River debuts under new head coach Orlando Gray.
Like his dad, Justin McCombs came out of college with a degree (business management) and dipped his toes into the business world, first at Wells Fargo Bank as a loan service specialist and then in inside sales at a design company.
Along the way, he’s also spent a year working with Randy Dillingham – his uncle by marriage – on youth football camps throughout the area. He formed J2M Speed & Agility last February, his own camp focused on helping student-athletes get better.
A visitor who came to speak recently to campers for Dillingham at St. Stephens High got a chance to see Justin McCombs and chat. And that conversation began the path that is now open.
The speaker was Erica Turner, a former basketball star at Bandys who played at North Carolina and a former athletic director at Newton-Conover High, and she said she mentioned an opening at her school and hoped Justin McCombs might be interested.
“When she told me that, I don’t really know that (at first) I saw myself as a teacher,” Justin McCombs said. “Then I thought ‘I want to get into coaching and this could be a great opportunity to get my foot in the door.’”
He applied for a teaching position, his first, and Turner said she stepped back from the interview process so those in her school and school system could meet Justin and make their own decision.
Turner said Justin McCombs will work in a to-be-assigned teaching position in the Career and Technical Education Department at Rocky River.
Also to be determined are exactly what coaching duties McCombs will have in varsity football. He is also an experienced track and field star who posted 40-yard dash times of 4.58 seconds and, at a Pro Day, of 4.68.
“I’m open for anything,” he said.
As a wide receiver, he was open a lot on the Bandys varsity football teams of 2005 and 2006. His brother, Josh, was also a star running back for the Trojans.
As a junior, Justin McCombs (unofficially) had 33 catches for 1,007 yards with 13 touchdowns that included 10 catches for 330 yards in back-to-back games against Bunker Hill and St. Stephens. That season, 10 of his TDs were of 46 yards or longer.
As a senior, his 39 catches for 1,057 yards included an eight-catch, 200-yard game against Mooresville, and he scored 15 times (eight of those scoring plays ranged from 49 to 85 yards.
After going to Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy and then to LRU, McCombs’ playing time for the Bears was limited. He got into six games in 2009, a few in the next two seasons, and five games in 2012.