CHAMPAIGN — Reggie Corbin was playing a video game on Monday afternoon when he got the news that he was the Co-Offensive Player of the Week in the Big Ten.
At first, Corbin, a running back at Illinois, saw he shared the honor with Purdue receiver Terry Wright, and had to investigate.
“I saw that it was co and I was like, ‘Dang, who was the other one? He must have done something insane,'" Corbin said. "I looked at the kid from Purdue and he had six catches, 146 yards and three touchdowns. I said, ‘Yeah, he probably should have won that himself.’"
Corbin is the first to win the award at Illinois since Wes Lunt in 2014. The award comes on the heels of Corbin's monster day in a 55-31 win against Minnesota where he ran 13 times for 213 yards and two touchdowns to help the Illini snap a two-game losing streak.
On Saturday, Corbin broke the second play of the game for a 72-yard score and added a 77-yarder in the third quarter. After the game, offensive players suggested that offensive coordinator Rod Smith called the perfect game.
But that's what Corbin has been seeing all year, and it finally clicked with him after a Week 3 loss to South Florida at Soldier Field in Chicago.
“Usually everyone makes a mistake," Corbin said. "Rod Smith doesn't make mistakes. Play calling — he doesn’t make mistakes. He prepares so well.
“It’s what he was born to do. Most people were runners or throwers. He’s a play caller. He’s perfect. He puts us in the right position every week. He does everything to the best of his knowledge. You can tell he puts a lot of effort into it."
Corbin's been producing eye-popping numbers all season as the anchor to the Illinois rushing attack. He leads the nation in runs of 80 or more yards (1), 70 or more yards (4), 60 or more yards (5) and 50 or more yards (7), averaging 9.07 yards per carry, which is second in the FBS behind Derrell Henderson at Memphis.
“Whenever you bust long runs, that’s game-changing runs. Those are explosive plays," Smith said. "You take a defense and it’s demoralizing when you hit 70-yarders.
"You hit a couple 70-yarders and that will make a coach sit on the sidelines with his hands on his knees looking the opposite direction for about five minutes. That’s what Reggie can do for you."
Smith has coached players with make-'em-miss moves before. Noel Devine comes to mind from Smith's days in West Virginia. Smith coached running back J.J. Taylor at Arizona last season, who had a similar skill set.
Corbin has the ability to make people miss, but he has to get to the secondary, first. Corbin won't accept praise without first crediting his offensive line of Vederian Lowe, Kendrick Green, Doug Kramer, Nick Allegretti and Alex Palczewski.
On Twitter, Corbin lauded his linemen's work in the award, and greeted them with a hug on Monday. Does he owe his front five a dinner?
“Have you seen those guys eat? I don’t think I have that much money," Corbin said. "But I gave them all hugs. I try to show them love on Twitter. I try to do everything I can. When they’re tired I go get them water."
Said Allegretti: "If there's a chance to give us credit, he's giving it to us. It's awesome. I think that's why we have such a great relationship with him. He's a special player."
On Saturday, when Corbin got into the open field, he shook past defenders and used his speed to burn down the field for touchdowns. It's been a track Corbin has been on all season. Once the offensive line paves the way, Corbin can "make 'em miss in a phone booth," Rod Smith said.
"The offensive line knows if they get Reggie into open field and he’s in a one-on-one situation and he needs to make somebody miss, he can do that — quite often," head coach Lovie Smith said.
Corbin isn't the same runner that Rod Smith used to harp on for a lack of top-end speed. Corbin has 952 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the season and is quickly moving towards 1,000, and becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher at Illinois since 2010.
“I can’t get on him as much," Rod Smith said. "I still do. Sometimes you have to shut up and hit humble pie."
Corbin is finishing runs and ended up in the end zone.
“One, he’s in shape," Smith said. "He did a great job of going out and getting himself in shape. I know he wasn't in shape when I got here. He’d break those runs and get caught. He’s stronger. He’s in better shape."