By ALEX AGUEROS
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – Modern college football is a seemingly larger-than-life organization. Each year, a frighteningly efficient process sends tens of thousands of recruits to their new home, school and team in a whirlwind recruitment process. Millions more tune in, either filling the stadiums or following a broadcast of the finished product. Despite the intimidating numbers and sheer odds against the student athletes, human nature has a way of ensuring no two recruitment stories are the same.
Freshman Tyson Holcombe, a 2013 defensive end recruit for Mules football, hails from Duncan, S.C. Duncan is home to 3,000 people in just three and a half square miles of land. And while it may not be the shiniest or largest reflection of football nation, it’s where Holcombe’s story begins.
“Midway through football season, one of my coaches caught me after practice,” Holcombe said. “Some school from Missouri was interested in recruiting South Carolina guys. Central Missouri.”
Volunteer assistant coach Damon Paul, who’s “familiar with a lot of the area” in South Carolina, initially noticed Holcombe at Byrnes High School where he saw a defensive end with surprising speed.
“In the MIAA, you have to find special athletes,” Paul said. “He was extremely fast, so I thought Tyson fit the bill.”
Watching Holcombe’s highlights on Hudl.com, a website dedicated to hosting sports film, it does not take a seasoned scout to notice the impressive speed referenced by Paul. An eight-minute compilation plays clip after clip of Holcombe relentlessly chasing down a quarterback or being a couple steps ahead of the line blowing up a play. Fortunately for Tyson, a seasoned scout got to see that impressive speed.
“[Coach Paul] saw my highlight tape and was impressed. They said I caught their attention and they needed to have me,” Holcombe said. “They were the first school to approach me about football. Before that, I ran track.”
It took more than Paul’s request to seal the deal for Holcombe and his family. During January, Holcombe and his family, along with many other football recruits, traveled to Warrensburg to tour Central’s facilities and campus, and to get a feel for the town.
“When I visited the school in January, they had the best options in mind as a student,” Holcombe said. “For me, UCM had the best campus— and the food was good.”
While a glowing review of Ellis Dining Hall is perhaps an unexpected perk, Central’s friendly demeanor during orientation also left a good impression for the Holcombe family.
“The students at orientation seemed so ready and welcoming,” Holcombe said. “They were surprised at how far I came and how I got here.”
In fact, in spite of the 900-mile distance, UCM promoting a sport Holcombe didn’t plan on perusing, and the overall unlikelihood of it all, Warrensburg and Holcombe seem like the perfect fit.
“Warrensburg reminds me of my town. Same atmosphere,” he said. “The small town atmosphere is a big plus for me.”
Holcombe’s story of finding Warrensburg, or perhaps vice-versa, is fueled by more than just football. The thrill of chasing down scrambling quarterbacks at the college level is compounded by the already grin-inducing excitement felt right before one’s freshman year of college. If there was any question Tyson wasn’t just a kid excited for college, look no further than his Twitter bio. There, one would find a short ode to his blessings and family, one that already boasts the hashtags “#UCM17” and “#GoMules.”
So how has Tyson Holcombe, student athlete, contained his excitement during the dog days of summer? He works out daily with his 56-year old pastor who, according to Holcombe, benches 550 pounds.
“He’s killing me,” Holcombe said. “I’m really ready to go to UCM.”
For Holcombe’s sake, and the rest of the Mules faithful, Central begins football camp Aug. 13.