Soccer: U-M’s Blake Corum to be honored at AFC Ann Arbor’s Home Opener

By Ryan Makuch

Ahead of the AFC Ann Arbor men’s, and club, home opener on May 8, Blake Corum, community activist and running back for the University of Michigan, will receive the Bank of Ann Arbor Community Award for his efforts within the community. Corum will be presented the award by Bryan Foley of the Supreme Felons, Jamall Bufford of Washtenaw County My Brother’s Keeper, and Justin Harper, Director of CLR Academy, all three of whom played an essential part in organizing Corum’s ‘Giving Back 2 Give Thanks’ turkey drive on Thanksgiving 2021.

Corum’s turkey drive received widespread coverage, both locally, nationally, and across the sporting sphere. He was featured prominently during Michigan football’s victory over Ohio State, where Corum ran for 87 yards, including an electrifying 55-yard run that got the entirety of Washtenaw County cheering.

It was a year to remember for Corum on and off the pitch, clearly. For Corum, this has built upon a lifetime of trying to help in any manner that he can.

Discussing how the idea of ‘Giving Back 2 Give Thanks’ occurred to him, Corum said, “I’ve always been the type of person to try and give back. I gave back in different ways – I gave back [previously] by holding camps, giving people knowledge that was given to me, to younger athletes.” Corum also noted a tuition-free youth camp he is also set to host back home in the DMV.

Corum’s connection to AFC Ann Arbor was seen on its largest scale through the turkey drive, but Corum was already actively engaged with many community projects, including appearing regularly at CLR Academy the summer prior.

“That was awesome!”, enthused Corum, who spoke highly of his time spent with the kids, shooting hoops and playing soccer. “Honestly, I didn’t really know what it was until Coach [to Michigan running backs, and co-founder of CLR Academy Mike] Hart told me to come out one time. I had a blast, and I kept coming back…it’s great for the kids.”

But when discussing why Thanksgiving, Corum made it clear that he wanted to share in the joy of the holiday with all. “It’s an important holiday. You can kind of just get away from whatever’s bothering you in the world, and just spend time with your family, laugh, and enjoy the day,” he would share.

As AFC Ann Arbor previously noted in our feature on Bryan Foley, it was here that Supreme Felons, Corum, and AFCAA would all cross paths as a collective for the first time, as AFCAA Club Chair Bilal Saeed would reach out to Foley to aid in the execution of the event on the Southside of Ypsilanti.

Corum has taken to his new environment like a fish to water.

“When I came here,” says Corum, the “here” being to the University of Michigan, “I thought, ‘Alright, how can I get involved here in the community?’ Like, besides football, how can I make my presence felt. And when I met Bilal, he gave me this path and allowed me to come along with him, and the things he does, and he helped me with things like the turkeys and such. I love being a part of the Ann Arbor and Ypsi communities, I feel like I can make some changes. I can help the violence that goes on and help these youngins dream big because that’s what it’s about for the youngins, just dream!”

Giving back is something he’s felt strongly about ever since his youth. He recalls regularly telling his father at red lights to reach out the window and provide a person in need of money with a few dollars. His father (seen with Blake in the image to the left) is a strong influence on his life of Corum, and he spoke of his parents as strong examples in his own life, supplemented vitally by other figures like mentors and football players. Roles that he intends to help play and fill through his own work.

The passion Corum has for helping young people comes from those roles being filled in his own life. “I had people when I was younger that helped me and inspired me,” he would say. “Besides my parents, I had older football players or just older people in general which gave me motivation and some gems that I can use.”

He would continue: “With me having the platform that I have right now, being able to give younger people the motivation to see things they can’t necessarily see yet. So if I can see those dreams for them, that’s what I want to do.”

Corum would also delve into the discussion about sport as a means for social change.

“Sports can change people’s lives in ways that you might not even think of. It’s not just about being that professional athlete, but just being in sport helps keep kids off the streets,” Corum would say. He continued, “It helps build connections. Some people don’t have strong social aspects to their character just yet, so that can help with [by] being able to meet new people and being able to meet new people from different environments. Sports are huge, it does a lot, it teaches you a lot, and it teaches you things you don’t learn in school.”

Corum may understand the power of sport and what it can do in a sociological sense, but Corum clearly wants to connect with everyone, and how he speaks makes that abundantly clear. “I want to give them that hope and that motivation to go out in this world and be whatever you want to be,” he gushed. “You don’t have to be an athlete, you can be an artist, a mechanic, but whatever you do just do it to your best ability and make your dream come true because that’s what this life is about. It’s about setting goals and reaching them and just being happy.”

“I feel like they just fall behind on their dreams, or just settle. And I don’t want these younger generations to just settle for being average. Go do what you want to do. It may take some time and hard work, but go do it.”

Corum is still a young man, he turned 21 this past Thanksgiving Day, but he is constantly learning and taking lessons from his powerful and unique life experiences.  “One thing I’ve learned since I’ve been here is, honestly, that the smallest things matter. Just saying ‘what’s up’ to someone walking down the street, or sitting alone at lunch, whatever it may be, goes a long way. Because you never know what that person is going through.”

The thoughtfulness extends to his own self and his cognizance of his social platform. “That person may be struggling, they may have anxiety about a test coming up, so using my platform, I’ve realized that everywhere I go now since I had a good year last year, people knew who I am. Any time I go out, if people come to ask for a picture, I say of course, because that can change their day.”

Corum is, of course, being modest about having had a “good year”. Corum rushed for 952 yards with a yards-per-carry of 6.7, good for seventh in the entire nation. To start the 2021 season, Corum rushed for 407 yards, seven touchdowns, and 7.7 yards per carry over the first three games of the season, including a new career-high of 171 yards against Washington. He would ultimately be named to the All-Big Ten Third Team for his work as an individual.

Part of a ‘Thunder and Lightning’ backfield with 2022 NFL draftee to the Tennessee Titans, Hassan Haskins, Corum, and his running-mate, shaped an offense that would carry Michigan to their first outright Big Ten Championship since 2003, and their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division I National Championship Playoffs. Haskins was the ‘thunder’ running, or leaping, over defenders, and Corum the lightning, emulating the great Barry Sanders with electric cuts and jukes to evade first and second tacklers.

Whether it’s on or off the pitch, Blake Corum shines brightly. It’s the esteemed honor of AFC Ann Arbor to present Blake Corum with the Bank of Ann Arbor Community Award. AFC Ann Arbor will also be presenting an equivalent award to Kallista Walker of Our Community Reads ahead of the women’s home opener on May 22. We look forward to celebrating our community members with and among those communities they aid, together, as one AFCAA Family.

About AFC Ann Arbor

Association Football Club Ann Arbor (AFC Ann Arbor) was founded in 2014 and competes in USL2 (men’s) and USLW (women’s) national amateur leagues. We are a community-based club, focused on equity, justice, and anti-racism. We consider all of our stakeholders, including supporters, players, staff, and ownership to be part of the #AFCAAFamily. Come On You Mighty Oak!