Blake Corum, 2019, St. Frances/St. Vincent Pallotti

by Nelson Coffin

Blake Corum ran 11 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns in a 52-10 wipeout of Boys’ Latin in the 2016 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference final, as a freshman for St. Vincent Pallotti High School, to finish his highly-anticipated rookie campaign with 1,001 rushing yards, 18 TDs and a whopping 9.8 yards-per-carry average.

And it was only the beginning of a terrific career that would eventually vault him into elite company as VSN’s No. 1 Running Back of the Decade.

Blake Corum has already appeared in five games as a freshman at the University of Michigan as the Wolverines prepare him to be their feature back of the next three years.

While the Panthers had a bit of an off-year in 2017, Corum was still ascending as one of the league’s most feared backs.

Then the 5-foot-8, 192-pound standout’s fortunes rocketed even higher in two seasons with the MIAA’s other championship Panthers — perennial national powerhouse St. Frances Academy — in 2018 and 2019 after learning the ropes at Pallotti.

“My freshman coach, Ian Thomas, and my sophomore coach, Justin Winters (at Pallotti), those guys helped me with my work ethic,” Corum said. “They used to train with me at five in the morning. They provided the foundation and I just carried it along to St. Frances and did my thing there.”

Corum finished his stellar junior year at St. Frances with 1,415 rushing yards, 280 yards through the air and 20 touchdowns after torching two-time reigning Georgia Class 6A state champion and perviously unbeaten Lee County High School, 43-14, in the season finale for 190 yards on the ground and two scores.

Showing that the spotlight was not too big for him or his teammates in the GEICO State Champions Bowl played on Lee’s home field in front of a national television audience on ESPNU, he sprinted 51 yards for the game’s first touchdown to set the tone for the surprisingly lopsided victory.

Corum’s second scoring jaunt covered 87 yards early in the third quarter and stuck a dagger into the Trojans’ bid for a perfect season and all but insured that the Panthers would complete a 10-0 slate and lock down a third straight finish atop the state rankings.

His senior season was even more impressive as St. Frances faced a challenging national schedule and he responded with 1,266 yards on 145 carries and scored 19 touchdowns.

The University of Michigan commit became even a better weapon by becoming more immersed in the passing game with eight receptions for 152 yards and three TDs.

His season-opener was an eye-opener for the folks in South Florida as the Panthers went on the road to rout Miami Central High School, 49-13.

The Rockets were ranked No. 1 in Miami and 15th in USA Today’s Super 25 coming into the game that was never really close after Corum made his mark early and often, scoring on a 22-yard pass and a 16-yard toss to help build a 29-7 halftime bulge.

He was at it again in the third quarter when he broke free off the right side and made an outstanding cutback inside the 10 on a 69-yard touchdown run to push the Panther lead to 36-13.

Corum finished his big night with a 6-yard TD bolt to seal the deal.

After scoring twice in a 55-0 runaway against Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy, he then added 181 rushing yards and a touchdown with 71 receiving yards in a humbling 34-18 setback to Los Angeles power Mater Dei High School in California, which snapped the Panthers’ 26-game winning streak.

However, they bounced back on another trip to Florida to pummel Venice High School, 49-7, as he scored twice in the triumph that only whetted the team’s appetite to take a crack at another highly regarded opponent from the Sunshine State — IMG Academy.

With Corum totaling 192 yards and two trips into the end zone, SFA prevailed, 35-7, at Morgan State University’s Hughes Stadium.

With those accomplishments burnishing an already splendid résumé, he became the first local player to be selected as the Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year since former Baltimore Raven returner Cyrus Jones was selected in his senior season at Gilman School in 2011.

“Blake Corum is by far the best we’ve played against this season, and actually, in recent memory,” longtime Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollison told VSN. “His toughness, vision and breakaway speed are what makes for highlight films.”

Corum has appeared in all five Michigan games this season, carrying the ball 26 times for 77 yards and two touchdowns. He has also caught five balls for for an additional 73 yards, as he continues to earn playing time in the Wolverine lineup.

“Blake Corum is as fast as advertised,” Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis was quoted as saying on (He is) just an exciting kid — a tough, physical kid.”

Corum is one of Michigan’s highest-rated running back recruits in the past decade, the website reported, and was the 126th overall player and 12th running back in the 247Sports’ 2020 class composite rankings.

“I’ve known Blake since his ninth-grade year in high school,” Gattis added. “(I’m) just excited about that kid and his maturity. The leadership he already brings, he brings a toughness mentality. He’s got great skill set; he’s a physical runner. People look at him as an undersized guy because of his height. The heart, strength and speed that he brings, he packs a punch. We’re really excited about him from that standpoint.”

“My parents sacrificed a lot for me,” Corum said. “When I transferred to St. Frances, I stayed in Baltimore those two years and met some great people like (St. Frances coach) Biff Poggi, and (high school and college teammate) Nikhai Hill-Green — people (who) will be lifelong friends. Nikhai and I pushed each other a lot. After practice, we’d continue working out for another two hours. I had some great teammates that made me better, and football is a team game, so they all played a role in any success I had or that we had as a team.”

While looking forward to his first season in the Big Ten, Corum reflected on being selected among an elite group of Charm City-area gridders.

“Learning that I have been named one of VSN’s Players of the Decade is a little mind-blowing, to be honest,” he said. “I’m a freshman in college, but blessed to be named to an All-Decade list. I started playing football at five years old and I knew I wanted to do big things in football. People say hard work pays off. I have worked hard and will continue to work hard. So far, it is paying off.”

No. 2 Running Back: Wande Owens, 2019, Glenelg

No. 1 Wide Receiver: Steven Smothers, 2016, Franklin

No. 2 Wide Receiver: Ethon Williams, 2019, Broadneck

No. 1 Offensive Lineman: Donovan Williams, 2011, Owings Mills

No. 2 Offensive Lineman: Devery Hamilton, 2016, Gilman School