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Illinois RB Reggie Corbin is looking to take his game to another level after breakout 2018 season

Corbin followed an injury-plagued 2017 season by running 128 times for 1,085 yards — an 8.5-yard average that ranked fourth in FBS — and nine touchdowns last season.

Senior running back for the Illini, Reggie Corbin spoke about his breakout junior season and expectations for his senior campaign at Big Ten Media Days at the Hilton Chicago.
Senior running back for the Illini, Reggie Corbin spoke about his breakout junior season and expectations for his senior campaign at Big Ten Media Days at the Hilton Chicago.
Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

The humility Illinois running back Reggie Corbin displays on the field is present when he speaks, too.

When asked during Big Ten media days Thursday at the Hilton Chicago about his personal goals for the 2019 season, he was reluctant to answer.

After saying to ‘‘never put personal goals out there,’’ Corbin took a moment to reflect on what he wants to accomplish during his final season in Champaign.

‘‘My personal goal, actually, is for me to do as well as possible and get all my O-linemen drafted,’’ Corbin said. ‘‘As long as I follow God’s plan, I couldn’t care less. Just run, so they can get drafted and support their families.’’

Corbin said his offensive line was a major reason he had a breakout season in 2018.

‘‘I had the same exact five offensive linemen every single game,’’ Corbin said. ‘‘They played through whatever they were going through. When you have a jell like that, it’s unbreakable and, to a certain extent, it becomes unstoppable.’’

Corbin followed an injury-plagued 2017 season by running 128 times for 1,085 yards — an 8.5-yard average that ranked fourth in FBS — and nine touchdowns last season.

He said he went into last season feeling better than ever after having surgeries to repair torn labrums in both shoulders. He focused on the small details and sharpened his instincts.

Now his newest challenge is taking his game to another level.

‘‘His knowledge of the game has improved quite a bit,’’ Illinois coach Lovie Smith said. ‘‘But Reggie’s got a lot of God-given abilities, too. As a coach, everything we’ve asked him to do is what he’s tried to do. You want to see him have the success he had last year and just keep growing from that.’’

Corbin was named to the preseason watch list for the 2019 Maxwell Award, which goes to the best all-around player in college football.

Corbin, however, said he doesn’t pay attention to or worry about awards and honors.

‘‘When you start focusing on that, that’s when you get sidetracked and don’t win anything,’’ he said.

For Corbin, making improvements heading into the 2019 season means staying true to himself. He said he accepts the accolades with humility, but they don’t mean anything if he doesn’t bring anyone else with him.

‘‘We need to find ways to give him the football as much as we possibly can,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Our offense, of course, is tailor-made for it. . . . In order for us to take another step, everybody will have to improve, and he’ll be one of those.’’