New Rochelle (N.Y.) Iona Prep cornerback Justin Combs (5-9, 170) has spent much of his life on the East Coast.
But he plans to spend his college years out West, heading to the Golden State to play college football.
“I'm committed to UCLA,” Combs said. “I was silently committed to UCLA for awhile, but now was the time.”
Combs made his announcement shortly after Rick Neuheisel was fired as the Bruins’ head coach on Monday. But the program's decision didn't worry Combs.
“I have faith in the program that everything will be ok,” Combs said. “My love for UCLA is so strong. I trust and know that everything will work out.”
Combs, who is the son of rap mogul Sean Combs, took an unofficial visit to Westwood in August for the Bruins’ Fall Scrimmage and that was what tipped the scales the Bruins’ way.
“It was love at first sight,” he said. “When I first went on a visit, I fell in love with the program and I fell in love with the environment and the tradition. I was good friends with Rahim Moore too and just to hear it from the players, it was love at first sight."
Combs said he talked regularly with offensive coordinator, and newly named interim coach, Mike Johnson.
“I speak to him often and over email and everything is good with him,” said Combs.
Combs said he was glad to make the decision public.
“It's a big relief to just get it off my chest and share it with my family and friends,” he said. “It’s just a dream come true to be able to claim a school, put on the gear proudly, and be a part of that program and know that I'll be a Bruin. It's a proud and touching moment for me.”
Combs spent the summer playing for the Goon Squad, one of the top 7on7 teams nationally, and put himself on to the map with strong showings all spring and summer, including at the New Level 7on7 National Tournament in Dallas.
Combs said he was glad he was able to prove his worth on his own despite his famous father.
“Most people think that he being my father, he helped get me the offers, but that's not true at all,” he said. “I went out the whole summer, I went to all the 7on7s, all the college camps and I competed my butt off. I made the most of the opportunity. I did this myself. No one did this but me.”
And Combs said his dad was proud that he chose UCLA.
“I spoke to my parents and they just told me since I have strong love, to commit to UCLA,” said Combs. “My dad is really happy for me and told me to just work hard and have faith and everything will work out for me, and it did.”
Combs said he plans to get his family all wrapped in UCLA wear for the holidays.
“The whole family is going to get some gear and rep Bruin Nation gear all over,” he said.
And his father was thrilled about his son's future.
“As a parent, today is one of the proudest moments of my life. This is everything a father could want for his son, for him to excel at what he loves to do and is truly passionate about. Justin is a shining example of what hard work, determination and a strong mentality can achieve. I am honored to call him my son and am happy that he is fulfilling his dream," said Sean Combs, in a statement.
Combs said he wasn’t worried about coming in to a new staff at UCLA.
“It’s going to be a clean slate for everyone,” said Combs. “The coach doesn't really know anyone so everyone will have a chance to prove themselves. It's not really a negative. I try to view it and make things positive.”
Combs had visited Illinois officially and was supposed to visit UCLA in mid-December.
“But I think I will visit UCLA in January now,” said Combs.
Combs also said that the talk of him and close friend Deaysean Rippy playing together is still very much in play.
“Ultimately, we’ll go with whatever the best place is for the best of us, but we still might be a package deal,” he said.
Combs played both ways this year for Iona Prep.
“We made it to the semifinals but we lost to the #4 team in the state, 14-10,” said Combs. “I got to play a little Wildcat quarterback and I had 12 touchdowns this year. It was fun and I took advantage of getting to play offense.”
Next up for Combs is the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Phoenix, where he’ll play for the East.
Combs will graduate in June and enroll at UCLA in the summer.