Friends would probably describe Marquel Combs as an easy going guy. But opponents of the Pierce (Calif.) C.C. defensive tackle would have an altogether different description.
"When I put my helmet on," Combs said, "I have an alter ego. I'm a very mean football player. Outside of that, I'm just cool, laid back, and love to hang out."
It's that on-field demeanor that has made Combs one of the most highly-recruited junior college players in the nation. But Combs only discovered his ability to - in his own words - transform into a "nasty defensive lineman" in the past couple of years.
Combs only played one year of varsity football at Hamilton in his hometown of Memphis. Following his brief high school career, he signed with a prep school, but upon finding out it wasn't properly accredited, he transferred to Fort Scott (Kansas) for the 2011 spring semester. He left later that summer, moving out west to Pierce C.C. near Los Angeles. He immediately made an impact.
Combs said he had 32 tackles, 10 of them for a loss, along with 2.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries for Pierce, which had 33 players sign with colleges earlier this spring. Recruiters around the nation have noticed Combs' productivity.
"I'm up to 19 offers now," Combs said, listing off programs from Pittsburgh to Washington State and many points in between.
Baylor is among the most recent to extend an offer. After growing up in Tennessee and attending community colleges in two different states, "location doesn't really play a part." Waco, Texas, Combs added, "isn't too far away."
He hopes to find out exactly how to get there. As of now, Combs only has trips scheduled to Ole Miss in April and to Arkansas in September, but right now, Combs said he's "trying to find out what would be the perfect time to check Baylor out, because I most definitely want to come."
Assistant coaches Jim Gush (linebackers) and Chris Achuff (defensive line) are Baylor's lead recruiters of Combs, and he said he talks with one of them twice a week.
"It's a pretty good relationship," Combs said, "and I'm just trying to make it stronger."
Baylor has been thin at the defensive tackle position the past few years. While that has affected Baylor's run defense a bit, it should help the Bears' chances of landing Combs. Immediate playing time is one of the most important factors in his decision, as is the value of the school's degree and just finding the right fit.
Don't count on a decision anytime soon, he said: "I'm just going day by day, not really rushing things."