The reigning college football national champions have hosted a number of high profile recruits in the class of 2012 already this spring. Prospects with offers from the top programs in the nation have visited the Plains, but this weekend, a different type of high profile prospect will be checking in on Auburn.
Iona Prep (NY) junior cornerback Justin Combs is still trying to get on the radar of big time college football programs, currently holding offers from Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, and Wyoming. For Combs though, his 'high profile' status comes from a different set of circumstances outside of football.
Combs is the son of hip hop mogul Sean Combs, known to most people as 'Diddy', the ultra successful music icon, recording artist and producer. For the younger Combs however, the dream of playing college football is something he sees as an opportunity to set himself apart from under his father's massive shadow.
"I'm going to play college football," Combs said. "Everybody thinks I can do whatever I want because my father is blessed, but I don't want to be in his shadow. I have found a passion for football, and I love it, so that's what I want to do.
"I just want to make a name for myself and work hard and earn it."
Sean Combs was actually a standout high school football player himself at Mount St. Michael Academy in New York, before breaking a bone in his leg his senior season.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound junior, along with highly coveted McKees Rocks (Pa.) Sto Rox linebacker Deaysean Rippy, and West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Memorial defensive back Armani Reeves, will arrive in Birmingham on Friday, visiting UAB and Samford, and will then visit Auburn on Saturday.
Despite being from the north and being relatively unfamiliar with the Auburn program, Combs and his teammates have the newest Auburn commit to thank for their upcoming visit.
Dixie Heights (Ky.) All-American quarterback Zeke Pike is 7-on-7 teammates with the trio, and has been persuading the group to visit Auburn.
"Some of my 7-on-7 teammates and myself are coming down this weekend," said Combs. "I haven't talked much with Auburn, but I've talked to Zeke (Pike) because he just recently committed. He was just telling us to go visit and see if we like it, so we decided to go visit and talk to the coaches more when we are down there."
Combs admits to not knowing much about Auburn other than what he sees on television, but one former Auburn great and current NFL star caught Combs' eye when he was younger and helped turn the prospect on to the Auburn program.
"I don't know too much about them," Combs said. "I started following them watching Ronnie Brown, that's when I really started following them and watching them play."
While Combs does not hold an Auburn offer, the desire to play big time college football burns deep with Combs, and the talented corner was not shy about what an offer from a school like Auburn would mean to him.
"Oh man, I'd be very excited," Combs said. "That's something every football player dreams about as a kid, just having a chance to compete with the best of the best."
Hailing from New York, where basketball rules, Combs understands the passion for football in other parts of the country and is drawn to it.
"I know Alabama is a big football state and I like that," Combs said. "Down there it's just football, football, football. I want to be surrounded by everybody that plays football and wants to talk football 24/7. I want to be in an environment like that."
That passion is a big reason for Combs' interest in playing college football in the south and checking out Auburn.
"I really want the school to be big on tradition and big on football, and also balanced with academics," Combs said. "Obviously Auburn is a good football program because they just won the national championship, but I want to see football tradition, school tradition, nice people, all around everything.
"Zeke told me a lot about it, and he said everything I said Auburn has. I'm very excited to go and see for myself."
In the meantime, Combs has been privileged to play with arguably the top quarterback prospect in the nation for the 2012 class in Pike. A day after former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was taken number one overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, Combs sees Pike as a similar player.
"He's a monster, he's just incredible," Combs said. "He's so tall and big, but he's so coordinated. He's nice and smooth with his drops and the way he throws the ball. He does it with ease. It's fun watching him.
"Zeke is just a great athlete. If he pushes himself, he can be just like Cam or better. He has the potential, if he keeps working hard, he can do it. I watch him when I'm taking breaks on defense, the way he can scramble and run."
In addition to his visits to UAB, Samford, and Auburn, Combs said he would like to visit Miami later in May.
For Combs and his teammates though, the trip down south may take a bit of a detour on Friday, as the group would like to travel down early enough to lend a helping hand to the victims of the catastrophic tornadoes that swept through the state of Alabama on Wednesday.
Combs said the group may travel down Friday morning, earlier than their previously scheduled arrival, and see what they can do to help in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham during their visit.