Erik Holcomb has grown accustomed to the spotlight, on and off the football field.
But during his South squad's 38-0 victory in the 41st Shrine all-star game at Veterans Stadium on Saturday night, the former Westlake High wide receiver was practically invisible. Holcomb played the entire game but failed to catch a single pass.
All season long, Holcomb was the focus of Westlake's offense, shrugging off constant double coverage to reel in 62 catches for 11 touchdowns in only eight games.
On Saturday, South quarterbacks Billy Blanton and Matt Koffler--who combined for only 36 yards on four-for-15 passing--threw five passes in Holcomb's direction. Only one was even remotely catchable, and Holcomb, wide open in the back of the end zone, dropped it.
While all eyes were glued to his future teammate at UCLA, tailback Sharmon Shah, Holcomb faded into the background. This was somewhat of a new experience for Holcomb, a perennial object of attention at Westlake.
During Holcomb's freshman year, a brouhaha over his father Buzz's attempt to establish legal guardianship over a few of Erik's football-playing buddies from the east Valley landed the Holcombs in court. During his senior year, Erik quit his track team in midseason on account of his father's philosophical differences with Westlake coach Jim Benkert.
Then there was the mini-furor over Holcomb's decision to attend UCLA. Initially, Holcomb's application to UCLA was rejected on account of his sub-par grades, and Holcomb made an oral agreement to attend Washington.
But the next day, Holcomb received a call from his Westlake Village neighbor, UCLA coach Terry Donahue. Donahue told Holcomb that because of his improved academic standing over his last two semesters, the school had reconsidered his application. Holcomb, free to fulfill his dream of becoming a Bruin, broke his agreement with Washington and committed to UCLA. "I felt really bad about breaking my word with Washington," Holcomb said. "I really liked the school, and everyone there was really nice to me."
Holcomb is hoping that his controversial flip-flop will work out for the better. After all, the Holcombs won in court during Ado Number One, and the commotion eventually died down. And Holcomb returned to the track team after Ado Number Two.
Perhaps the caterwauling over Holcomb's college choice will also prove to be much ado about nothing. "I can't wait to start playing for UCLA," he said.
* SOUTH WINS IN ROUT: C20