Member Spotlight: Fred Combs, Newest NC Sports Hall of Famer

Friday, April 10, 2015

For Fred Combs, playing sports brought fame and it brought pain. But nothing ever stopped him from being a winner. In May, his numerous achievements in the sports world are taking him to the NC Sports Hall of Fame.

At his May 15 induction, Fred will be surrounded by NC sports royalty, including Jeff and Joe Bostic from Clemson, John Clougherty, supervisor of ACC Sports officials, Rick Hendrick of motorsports fame, Jerry McGee, former Duke assistant, and sportswriter Lenox Rawlings. But despite all the fanfare, he remains humble.

“Freddie” was offered a scholarship to play football and baseball at NC State in 1964 after being a standout with his twin brother Francis and Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Jimmy “Catfish” Hunter,  at their high school in Hertford, NC.

A Record Unbroken

During his four years, he racked up record after record and was a member of the famed “White Shoes Defense,” helping to win the 1967 game of the season his senior year against Houston in the Astrodome.  During his career at State, he led the nation with a total of 434 punt return yardage in a season, which still stands as a NC State record.

After graduation, he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers but was cut in one of the final rounds. He played 2 1/2 years with the Norfolk Neptunes of the Continental Football League. But his career was cut short, when a torn MCL in his right knee brought him back to Raleigh. As part of his payment for the injury, the league gave him $1,500 for rehabilitation and he decided to use it to pay for a membership at the YMCA. He’s been a member ever since.

His injury didn't keep him down long. Fred played semi-pro baseball with his brother for the Durham Bees while he settled down to raise a family and work in the insurance industry. Playing sports was his passion, so when his daughter, Kristen's soccer team needed a coach, he decided to join an adult soccer league to learn by playing.

Staying active: a Way of Life

He loved sprinting and he was good at it so soccer agreed with him. But while he played soccer, he suffered the most injuries. He broke his wrist and tore his rotator cuff. “It got to the point that when I called my wife, Jaime, and asked her to meet me in the emergency room, she just said “You know the way there,’” he added with a laugh.

He still spends plenty of time working out at the Y, riding the stationary bike, lifting weights or attending a bike class about three times a week.

“I like the environment at the Y, the classes, the friends that I’ve met here and see every time I come here.” He credits his regular exercise routine with helping him get through recent knee replacement surgery in record timing.

An Honor to Cherish

During the receptions and cocktail parties planned for the weekend of May 14-15, Fred is looking forward to seeing friends and relatives he hasn’t seen in a while and regards his induction as a special honor.

He knows that despite all the pain, being involved in sports and staying active has prolonged his quality of life. “It’s important to stay active and keep your weight down. So you don’t wither away or balloon up. The Y helps me do that. ”