A tentacle of the Michigan and Ohio State football rivalry recently crept into Fauquier County.
That’s because Warrenton’s Blake Corum is one of the most coveted high school running backs in the nation.
So he has seen a glimpse of the storied Wolverines-Buckeyes rivalry, especially after he announced his commitment to Michigan on June 27.
“Ohio State fans, they were giving me a bunch of crap on Twitter,” Corum said with a laugh. “The rivalry is one of the biggest in college football and I can’t wait.”
Corum is a St. Frances Academy (Baltimore) rising senior and a Rivals four-star recruit who ranks 11th in the nation among running backs. He amassed scholarship offers from 36 NCAA Division I teams, including three before he even joined a high school football team.
As an eighth grader, Corum played for the Manassas Mutiny in the Northern Virginia American Youth Football Conference, garnering college interest before he graduated from Warrenton Middle School in 2014.
“The recruiting process was great,” Corum said. “But I was kind of ready to find a home” after four years.
“Michigan, it just kind of felt like home,” he said. “I’m so happy.”
Before committing, Corum narrowed his interest down to Southern California, Virginia Tech, Kentucky, Ohio State and Michigan. He then pared that list to a choice between the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
So he made an official campus visit to Columbus, Ohio, over the June 15 weekend, followed by a trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 22.
“It was a very tough decision,” said Corum, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound athlete. “When I was at Ohio State, they had punching bags with ‘Michigan’ on them.”
And, true to form, the Buckeyes only referred to Michigan as “That team up north.”
“That [rivalry is] all they talk about,” Corum said of the Buckeyes. “Michigan, they don’t really talk much. They just work.
“They put their head down and grind,” he said. “That’s what I really like about Michigan. And the coaches really love their players.”
So he chose the Wolverines’ side of the rivalry only five days after he visited Michigan’s campus with his parents, Christiana and James. Michigan appealed to Corum in many ways during that trip.
“The highlight was getting to take everything in with my mom and dad, spending time with them and talking to coaches,” Corum said of interacting with the likes of Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh. “They got to see everything I’ve gotten to see for years” as a recruit.
“They fell in love with it. I fell in love with it,” Corum said of Michigan. “I had a really great time.”
Jay Harbaugh’s relentless pursuit of Corum didn’t hurt, either. A son of Michigan’s head coach, Jay Harbaugh is the Wolverines’ running backs coach, and he first showed interest in Corum during the 18-year-old’s sophomore season at St. Vincent Pallotti High (Laurel, Maryland).
“He was straight up with me: ‘You’re our guy. We really want you at running back,’” Corum said of Harbaugh. “They’ve just been really recruiting me the hardest … for the longest time.
“My relationship with Jim Harbaugh and Jay Harbaugh has just been really strong,” he said.
Corum also has a significant relationship with a former Michigan coach. St. Frances Academy co-head coach Biff Poggi spent one season (2016) as an associate head coach and special adviser on the Wolverines’ staff, breaking up his tenure at St. Frances.
“But that didn’t have an effect on me going to Michigan,” said Corum, who spent school nights at the Baltimore boarding school and weekends at home in Warrenton. “At the end of the day, he said, ‘Do what’s best for you.’”
It turned out that Michigan has felt best for four St. Frances players. By committing to the Wolverines, Corum followed the same path as Panthers teammates Osman Savage (linebacker), Nikhai Hill-Green (linebacker) and Micah Mazzccua (offensive lineman), but Corum said they also had little influence over his decision to choose Michigan.
Those players, however, had a huge impact on St. Frances’ 2018 season. They helped the Panthers amass a 10-0 record while playing a challenging national schedule, which ended with a 43-14 win on the road over Lee County (Georgia) in the State Champions Bowl Series, televised on ESPNU.
Corum ran for a pair of touchdowns in that game, and he finished the season with about 1,600 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving and 31 touchdowns, including four on punt returns.
“The season went great,” said Corum, who plans to enroll early at Michigan and arrive on campus in January after his senior football season with St. Frances. “But this year is going to be even better. We’re a powerhouse now.”
Corum enrolled at St. Frances after transferring from St. Vincent Pallotti, for which he played two seasons. Prior to his arrival, St. Frances faced an unusual challenge as a program. After finishing 2017 with a 13-0 record and national recognition as the No. 4 ranked team in USA Today’s Super 25, most Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) football teams dropped the Panthers from their schedules for 2018.
Many of those MIAA teams reportedly cited safety concerns due to the physical dominance of St. Frances’ team, which featured many NCAA Division I recruits thanks in large part to the leadership of Poggi, who effectively used the wealth he gained as an investment fund manager.
According to the Archdiocese of Baltimore website, Poggi helped begin St. Frances’s football program in 2008 with $60,000 of seed money. And, prior to the 2018 football season, that website said he “is funding scholarships for more than 40 football players at St. Frances Academy, where tuition is $9,150.”
According to ESPN, Poggi has spent more than $2.5 million of his money to help bolster the program, which Poggi reportedly says targets underprivileged players.
Regardless, those finances didn’t influence Corum’s decision to transfer to St. Frances because most of his private school options included full scholarships, Corum said.
“I was just looking for more competition,” he said of switching schools. “The competition we’re playing against [at St. Frances] is what we’re going to see in college.”