A recent 24 hours for Scotty McCreery went like this: Appear on Ellen to promote his hit album Clear as Day
; cram in homework while waiting for the red-eye from L.A. to his hometown of Garner, N.C.; report to Garner Magnet High School by 8:30 a.m.; cheer on the school's football team as part of the "Blue Crew" pep squad that night. "I get to do two things I love most: singing and going to Garner," the American Idol
champ, 18, says of juggling his country career with his senior year. Back home, he and his similarly shorn pals have a motto. "We call it SHDC: Short Hair, Don't Care," he says. "We're very chill. They treat me the same." That "sense of normalcy," along with his chart success and an opening gig on Brad Paisley
's 2012 tour, "is the best of both worlds," says McCreery. Better still for the sports nut? The Garner Trojans are playoff-bound after winning their division.