A new No. 1
Lacrosse now primary sport for 4-sport athlete Marques Combs
Fast, quick, aggressive, polished and skilled.
That’s a brief summary of Marques Combs the soccer player.
Those five words also offer the same summary of the Palisade High School senior’s ability as a lacrosse player.
As a 4-year-old, Combs starting booting the soccer ball on the miniature fields around Grand Junction. As he grew, so did his soccer skills.
Soccer was always his sport, and he’s good at it. But the all-around athlete loves a lot of sports.
As he prepares to enter his final year of high school, Combs made a rather stunning decision. Lacrosse is now the sport he hopes to play in college.
“Soccer is fun, but I’m kind of over it,” Combs said bluntly. “I realized lacrosse was working out better for me, and I could use all my skills in that.”
Ditching soccer for lacrosse was a decision that left his parents dumbfounded. After all these years, all the soccer camps, tournaments, practices and club teams, and now their son with supreme soccer skills kicked the sport off the top of the priority list.
“My mom was a little shocked,” Combs said with a chuckle. “My dad was surprised, but he was like, ‘Do what makes you happy.’ “
Lacrosse makes Combs happy.
“I like the physical part and the speed of lacrosse. If you’re one second too slow, you miss your chance,” he said.
Mom supported his decision, but not without some prodding.
“She kept asking me if I was sure, and I said I was,” Combs said.
The decision really did catch Missy and David Combs off guard.
“We were a little surprised since we thought soccer was the sport he’d play in college,” Missy said. “A year ago, I would have said soccer in a flash. I really love watching him play soccer.”
As a former high school soccer player herself, she knows the game well, so it took a little while for her to learn the game of lacrosse.
“I didn’t know much about lacrosse, but now I really like lacrosse, too,” she said.
In this modern era of high school sports in which athletes specialize and concentrate on only one or maybe two sports, Combs plans to be the rarest of high school athletes and play four sports, just like he did last year.
He will still be on Palisade’s soccer team this fall, and like last year, he will again be the place-kicker for the Bulldogs’ football team. But this year, he plans to do more than just kick.
“I want to be part of the team. Last year, I was always standing on the sidelines waiting to kick, and I wanted to be out there,” he said.
He enjoys the physicality of lacrosse, so he naturally wanted to get physical on the football field, too.
“Sometimes, on kickoffs, Coach (Joe Ramunno) would get mad at me because I would be running down the field trying to make a tackle,” he said with a laugh.
This year, the plan is to play on defense in the secondary.
The Combs family will meet with coaches from the soccer and football teams to see how it will work for Marques to play both sports.
For their son to start playing football as a senior in high school has increased the anxiety level.
“We’re a little anxious,” Missy said with a nervous chuckle.
David Combs played college football, so he knows what to expect, but Mom now has to learn another sport.
Missy and David have always provided their kids with plenty of training and sports opportunities.
Their daughter, Natalie, parlayed her soccer skills into a scholarship at Sonoma State University in California.
They thought their son was on that same soccer track until this past spring.
He’d played on club teams and was a member of the Olympic Development Program only a few years ago. Everything seemed to be aligned for him to keep motoring toward a possible college soccer scholarship.
As a sophomore, he scored 23 goals and was an all-conference player for the Bulldogs.
Last season, he split time in the field and as the team’s goalkeeper.
Those same attributes — speed, quickness, agility and aggressiveness — that set him apart on the soccer field can also be seen when he’s attacking the net as a midfielder in lacrosse.
He started playing lacrosse in fifth grade and plays for the Grand Junction High School team in the spring because Palisade does not have a lacrosse program.
For Marques, the fun of lacrosse was too powerful to ignore.
“My lacrosse coach said he thought I could go further (in college) in lacrosse than soccer,” he said.
Last season, Marques tied for second on the lacrosse team in goals and was second in points.
Once he decided lacrosse was his sport, he went all in on the switch.
He attended a lacrosse tournament in Pennsylvania in June, then went to a camp in Massachusetts, where he competed against great players from around the country.
After the camp, he was selected for the all-star team.
Lacrosse is an overwhelming No. 1 for Marques, but he confessed soccer isn’t even No. 2 anymore.
“I think basketball is my second-favorite sport,” he said.
Many soccer athletes who hope to prepare for college programs need to commit to the sport on a year-round basis, playing on the high school team plus high-level club programs.
Combs decided he just didn’t want to give up the other high school sports.
Most of the high-level club soccer programs are in Denver, with some leagues running from late fall all the way through the spring.
Combs had opportunities to play for the Colorado Rush soccer team in Denver, but that would mean no high school basketball.
“I really like playing basketball and don’t want to miss out on it,” he said.
As a hard-nosed defender with a good shooting touch, Combs likely will play an important role on the Bulldogs’ basketball team this season.
His growing love of lacrosse started to peak last summer when he traveled to the East Coast for lacrosse tournaments. That’s when he realized what it takes to be a great player.
“I was like, ‘Wow, they really know how to play,’ ” he said. “It was really good motivation.”
Missy Combs reminded her son it’s not just soccer that takes a singular commitment to prepare for college programs.
“I told him, ‘Other kids are only working on lacrosse, and you have to realize that you’re giving up that specialized training,’ ” she said.
Even though Missy might like to see Marques concentrate on soccer, she likes the idea of her son doing multiple things.
“You have to have a well-balanced life. I just want him to enjoy life,” she said. “He wanted to play all those other sports, so that’s good.”
When Missy and David are asked if their son plays sports, the answer is usually met with surprise.
“When they ask, ‘What sport does your son play?’ I tell them he plays four,’ ” Missy said, “and they’re like, ‘Really?’ “
Whatever sport Marques plays, Missy and David will be in the stands cheering on their four-sport athlete whenever he’s on the field or court.
Three round balls and a football will make for a well-rounded senior year for Marques Combs.
But lacrosse is now No. 1.