It’s easy to imagine a caricature of a star high school football player. You see it in movies, television shows, and often in reality—the clean haircut, glistening white teeth, muscles accentuated by a tight-fitting shirt and a charisma likened to that of anyone from a number of football-centric films.
Now imagine the opposite. That’s Simon Holcomb, and he’s always liked it that way.
Holcomb prefers to be comfortable — he strolls the halls at North Forsyth high school in grey sweats. He gladly rocks the shaggy hair. He stands about 5-foot-10. He admits he’s “trying to add on weight.” He thinks — at least — that he stays out of plain sight. He calls himself an “Average Joe.” But this season he found out his perception of himself was wrong.
How could you miss him? While wearing that black No. 6 jersey for the Raiders on Friday nights, the blue-collar, calm and cool kid from Coal Mountain became a superstar in his own right. He didn’t realize how much of an impact he was having off the field — let alone on it — until a visit to an elementary school class included a humbling surprise.
“I walked into the classroom and a kid came up to me and was like, ‘Holy cow, you’re Simon Holcomb!’ He was so excited, and he had made me out of a gingerbread man for an arts project they did. My number was on it and everything,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb can’t go to the grocery store without another young football player pulling their mother away from the next item on the list to meet him. In a big city where Division I prospects come in bunches, this type of envy for a high school football star may not exist. Near and around the winding, two-lane roads of north Forsyth, celebrity can surprise the celebrity itself.
Holcomb gets wide-eyed thinking about just how much he’s done and how much has happened since he started playing varsity football. A kid who has always liked running, he was also always behind in the height and weight category. This season none of that mattered.
In first-year head coach Robert Craft’s pass-happy offense, Holcomb played a true wide receiver position for the first time in his career and burst onto the scene with 63 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns through 10 games. For part of the season he led the entire state in receiving yards. Highlight catches were a weekly occurrence. Double coverage for him was a laughing matter.
“Making a catch in double coverage. Nothing feels better than that,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb did that often — usually in the end zone — earning him the FCN’s recognition as Offensive Player of the Year.
FCN: We remember featuring you as a much shyer player last year. How much has changed for you since your senior season?
Holcomb: A lot. I felt like I became more of a leader of this team. At the start we were unsure about the new coaching staff, things were a little hectic. But now, I mean, these coaches are amazing. We didn’t have a great year in the win column but we felt like we, the seniors, helped build toward what the program is building toward. Part of that was me becoming more vocal and taking on my role as a senior.
FCN: You got double covered a lot. How does that make you feel?
Holcomb: It’s a respect thing. The thing is, if they’re doing that to me someone else is open, or will be, so you as a team player learn to invite it. You still want to try to break it if you can though.
FCN: Was there a moment this year that sticks out for you, for your play on the field?
Holcomb: Charlie Aiken’s touchdown against Pickens. Just like you said, I was doubled in the middle and as soon as I got that I knew he was going to have a shot to be open. I remember kind of looking over toward him the second he caught it. That was an awesome feeling.
FCN: You told us back in the spring that you feel like you play with a chip on your shoulder. Does that stand true now?
Holcomb: Yes. I’ve always been a smaller player, but that doesn’t have to mean anything. A lot of colleges don’t want a smaller player like me, so I just have to keep working and show what I’m capable of.
FCN: Do you have any plans for playing in college?
Holcomb: I’ve recently talked to Reinhardt University. They almost just went to the national championship, so that’s a place I’m keeping an eye on. I’m just now getting into the process of looking into my options. Even Savannah State has talked with me.