Former St. Frances defensive back Alonzo “Ace” Colvin knew in 2019 that running back Blake Corum was special. So it comes as no surprise to see his former high school teammate carve up defenses at Michigan.
Against national powerhouse IMG Academy, Corum exploded for 180 yards and two touchdowns to carry his team to a blowout win over the Ascenders, who were ranked No. 5 in the country at the time.
“He was going crazy,” Colvin said. “Because of what they were saying about us before the game, he just snapped and started going crazy. I was like, ‘Wow.’”
Now, two years later, Corum is a sophomore at Michigan, where he has formed a dynamic running back duo with Hassan Haskins to help the Wolverines claim the Big Ten title and reach the College Football Playoff for the first time. But as much as his speed and explosiveness have helped the Wolverines become national title contenders, Corum’s heart and love for people have helped others in the Michigan area.
“He’s been spectacular,” said former St. Frances coach Henry Russell. “He’s done a great job of not only running the football but just who he is as a person and as a leader.”
It starts with Corum’s relentless work ethic, which he learned from his father, James.
Since 1996, James has run a landscaping company that he started from the ground up. Early on, he remembers working every single day, doing whatever needed to be done for his business to take off.
“I used to be like Blake,” James said. “When I first started, I just wanted to work. I had goals that I wanted to achieve, so it was sunup to sundown, every day. I couldn’t stop. That’s who Blake is.”
Corum enrolled in Michigan early but had to return home during the spring of 2020 because of the pandemic. While he was home, Corum got up at 3:30 in the morning to work out, then went to work for his dad’s landscaping company, driving a dump truck with all the equipment.
“I had my own crew,” Corum said. “My dad would tell me the jobs we need to get done then my crew would hop in the dump truck and head out. It was fun helping out my dad because of all the hard work I’ve seen him put in over the years.”
Corum’s passion for helping others is just as big as his passion for football.
James remembers his son having a desire to give since he was 7 years old. Whenever they would walk around Washington, Corum would take the money he received from his birthday or chores and hand it to homeless people. At church, Corum loved putting money into the donation basket.
“He’s always been a giver,” James said. “Whether it be money he’s earned on his own or helping someone, that’s something that he’s always liked to do.”
College athletics has entered a new age in which student-athletes can profit off their name, image and likeness after the Supreme Court ruled against the league’s restrictive compensation rules for athletes. Since July 1, student-athletes have been able to promote services and products, participate in camps and clinics, sell autographs, and more. With endorsement deals from Subway and Outback Steakhouse, Corum has used his NIL money to help people in the Michigan area.
“It’s a blessing to be able to put money in athletes’ pockets, putting them in better situations,” Corum said. “I’m taking some of this money, and I want to give back to the community and do what I can.”
Around Thanksgiving, Corum held a “Giving Back 2 Give Thanks” event in Ypsilanti, Michigan, partnering with local organizations while using his NIL money to purchase turkeys for families in need.
This month, Corum partnered with Detroit Police Athletic League to deliver Christmas gifts to children. He also spoke with kids at a Catholic school while reading books, running basketball drills and treating them to pizza.
“He’s got a great big smile,” Russell said. “That’s kind of what his heart is like, great and big. His teammates loved them. His teachers loved them. Everybody in the building loved them. He always had a smile on his face and wanted to make other people smile.”
Corum has always been eager, and perhaps overly so. When he was a kid, his father used to remind him to slow down. That enthusiasm showed on the field at Michigan.
As a freshman, Corum would take off before letting the play develop or allowing the offensive lineman to make a block. Under Wolverines first-year running back coach Mike Hart, Corum learned to settle down, allowing him to take his game to another level.
During the regular season, the 2019 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year rushed for 939 yards and 11 touchdowns. Along with Haskins, who had 1,288 yards, the Wolverines had the best rushing attack in the Big Ten.
“Before the play, I read defenses and coverages,” Corum said. “I’m allowing the play to develop. That’s where my game has changed. My patience has grown.”
Hart called Corum, who looks up to NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, the quickest and most explosive running back he has been around.
Corum, who is from Marshall, Virginia, can make his presence felt even though he might be the smallest player on the field at times, standing at 5-foot-8. In the first quarter of Michigan’s Big Ten championship win over Iowa, Corum slipped between an open gap before making a defender miss as he sped down the sideline for a 67-yard touchdown.
“Blake is the big plays,” Hart said. “He can make a move at full speed then burst. He can get from zero to 10 really fast.”
Colvin will quickly tell you that Corum is different. After St. Frances defeated Venice High School in 2019, a game in which Corum rushed for 262 yards and two touchdowns, he was in the hotel gym working out at 2 a.m.
Why? Corum fumbled during the game.
“One of the coaches called me and said, ‘We just found Blake in the weight room working out, and he said he was frustrated with his performance,’” Russell recalled. “Most people don’t have that. Honestly, there’s something about him that’s so determined to succeed and will not be outworked.”
Corum is the definition of a gym rat. While at St. Frances, Corum would get up at 5 a.m. every day to work out. If St. Frances lost a game or made a mistake, Corum was in the gym right after, and he has continued to do so at Michigan.
“I understand losing makes you better,” Corum said. “It won’t make you better if you don’t take advantage of it. I take advantage of every loss I get.”
During practices at St. Frances, Corum outworked everyone. He constantly pushed his teammates, holding them to a certain standard no matter if they started or sat on the bench.
“Mentally, he’s just different,” Colvin said. “His work ethic is going to separate him from a lot of people because not many people have his work ethic.”
College Football Playoff semifinal
NO. 2 MICHIGAN vs. NO. 3 GEORGIA
Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
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TV: ESPN Line: Georgia by 7 ½