The cracks and thuds of shoulder pads and helmets filled the air around Chapel Hill, North Carolina, as the Tar Heels were in the midst of a spring scrimmage in 2015.
There were new voices on campus leading the defense -- among them defensive coordinator Gene Chizik and linebackers coach John Papuchis -- and they didn't care what your standing was in previous seasons; all they were concerned about was getting the right players on the field.
With the second-string defense on the field, one of the linebackers had to sit out because his shoe came off. And before Papuchis could yell, "We need a linebacker!" over the sea of Carolina blue helmets, a redshirt freshman was already sprinting onto the field.
On his first play, he made the tackle for a loss. On his next, he made another. That's when Chizik strode over to Papuchis and asked, "Who is that?"
"I think," Papuchis said before taking a moment to think, "it's Holcomb."
With the other player ready to come back onto the field, Papuchis stopped him. "No, wait. I want to see what he can do."
It was the opportunity Cole Holcomb had been waiting for, the climax of the work he had put in and the genesis of the accomplishments -- which included recording 105 tackles for Washington last season and leading all rookies with 74 solo tackles -- that followed.
He was no longer an unknown walk-on from New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
"I actually remember using it as an example...of [how] you prepare yourself for the opportunity when it presents itself," Papuchis said. "Those who do reap benefits and those who don't, the opportunity passes by. And he obviously took advantage of that opportunity."