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Cole Holcomb: From UNC football walk-on to starter

Meet UNC’s newest walk-on turned starter

North Carolina State Wolfpack v North Carolina Tar Heels Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

UNC fans may notice only a few new fresh faces on the defensive side of the ball this year for the Tar Heels. One of those faces will be at the weak-side linebacker position. UNC was looking for someone to replace Shakeel Rashad, and found that in Cole Holcomb.

Holcomb has some pretty big shoes to fill. Rashad was second on the team in tackles last year with 126 and led the team in tackles for loss with 8.5 and 3 forced fumbles. The New Smyrna Beach, Florida product has embraced his role and is ready to meet the high expectations that UNC has received for this upcoming year.

Why are we fretting about another position change? Players are replacing players all the time, and some warrant more praise and attention than others. What makes this one so special? Well, Cole Holcomb isn’t just your average college football player. He isn’t your typical 5 or 4 or 3 or even 2 star. He is truly an exception to the stereotypical recruit.

Holcomb received 0 Division I scholarship offers in high school. He had a few from FCS schools, but wasn’t recruited by the big boys at all. This is somewhat of an anomaly nowadays considering how thorough recruiting has become. Especially when you factor in all of the recruiting tools, from the websites to scouts, to all the recruiting camps players attend throughout high school. Due to all these outlets, exposure really isn’t a problem for players nowadays.

Some type of exposure can be found almost anywhere. Not for Cole Hocomb, though. He had to work his way into the limelight, first as a walk-on with the team. After this, he used his opportunity in the spring scrimmage last year to prove he belonged, which earned him a backup spot to Shakeel Rashad. This year, with the departure of Rashad, the position was all his. Despite being named a starter, Holcomb didn’t even earn a scholarship until August 20th of this year.

Let’s be clear though, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Rudy story. He isn’t 5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, and has barely a speck of athletic ability. Although, as a high school freshman, Cole was 5’6 and only 115 pounds. Regardless of the past, Cole Holcomb can play now. When he arrived on campus he was only 185 pounds, but hard work in the weight room helped him bump up to 220 pounds to help fill out his 6’1 frame.

When you see Cole with the other players on the squad, he doesn’t look like a walk-on at all. He belongs, and he’s ready to show all the Division I coaches what they missed out on.