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With video: UM's Blake Corum uses NIL cash to buy turkeys for neighbors in need

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ypsilanti — Blake Corum always has been one to give back to the community.

Corum is a Michigan running back who has been a large reason for the team’s success this season, although he has missed the last two-plus games with an injured ankle. He hopes to play Saturday when the Wolverines face Ohio State.

About five weeks ago, he decided he wanted to buy 100 turkeys to be distributed in the Ypsilanti community and use money he has made from name, image and likeness (NIL) — which launched in July and allows college athletes to profit off their brands — to purchase the turkeys for families to enjoy Thanksgiving.

Michigan running back Blake Corum hands out turkeys that he bought with his NIL money.

He held the “Giving Back 2 Give Thanks” event Sunday, with an assist from several local charity groups, which doubled the number of turkeys distributed and included milk, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and other canned goods for a well-rounded Thanksgiving meal. Corum and teammate Nikhai Hill-Green, who also were teammates at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, were among those distributing meals.

“I’ve always given back, whether it’s a football camp or small things,” Corum said. “I’ve always invested in giving back to my community and trying to get the next generation to live out their dreams. Thanksgiving was coming along, NIL is going really good, and I told my Dad (James), ‘I’m going to buy 100 turkeys.'”

Corum had worked as a volunteer during the summer at Ypsilanti-based CLR Academy, which is sponsored by Michigan running-backs coach Mike Hart’s foundation. Corum had told Hart what he hoped to do for Thanksgiving and Hart encouraged him to organize with Bilal Saeed, AFC Ann Arbor co-owner who is active with CLR Academy. Bilal set the wheels in motion and other community partners became involved, including Milk Means More, The Love Stand, Washtenaw MBK and Parkridge Community Center. 

With all that support, an additional 100 turkeys were purchased and distributed first in Superior Township at the Sycamore Meadows apartments housing project and also on the south side of Ypsilanti at Parkridge Community Center.

“The first thing he said is, I want to do a turkey giveaway where we were (in Ypsilanti), and he was specific about it because he understood the need in that community,” Saeed said. “I was just blown away.”

Saeed said Corum and Hill-Green kept coming back to help at the camp, which is free to kids each weekend during the summer.

“You could tell it was important to them and made an impact,” Saeed said.

Hill-Green joined Corum on Sunday because they’re both like-minded when it comes to giving back.

“Community engagement has always been important for both of us,” Hill-Green said. “That’s something where we connect, and I told him, 'Whatever you’re doing, I’ll support you, and I’ll expand off of it with my own stuff.' It’s awesome to give back.”

The two Wolverines said their determination to help in the community goes back to their high-school days.

“Going to a school like St. Frances, inner-city, it changes your perspective on life,” Corum said, Hill-Green next to him agreeing. “So whatever you can do, it’s all about giving back.

"It’s all about making sure the next generation can out-do you.”

Corum turns 21 on Thursday, which happens to be Thanksgiving Day.

He wanted to make people smile this year. He hopes to make a difference.

“When I was growing up in the athletic world, people helped me. They looked out, they helped me,” Corum said. “I didn’t really need much, but people were there for me. I just wanted to be able to give back in any way possible whether it be giving out turkeys, just small things that put a smile on someone’s face.

“It’s an important holiday. Everyone deserves to have a nice little meal.”

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achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis