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A look inside Corbin’s road back from brutal hamstring injury

Jashaun Corbin has been one of the stars of FSU’s spring practices. He runs with physicality and is a frequent as well as dependable receiver out of the backfield.

The 6-foot, 215-pound Corbin has been praised throughout the offseason from coach Mike Norvell to running backs coach David Johnson to strength and conditioning coach Josh Storms.

“Jashaun is a stud,” Storms said as FSU concluded offseason workouts. “That guy is ultra, ultra dependable. He’s kind of the same guy on the football field as he is coming to work every day. He’s that guy that’s going to be well rounded.”

Corbin was quite busy and showed he was well rounded in FSU’s second scrimmage of the spring on Saturday. He ran 13 times for 57 yards and, along with Lawrance Toafili, they were the most productive receiving options. The FSU coaching staff said the goal was for them to get a long look at Corbin.

“I wanted to really see him get tired,” Johnson said. “I wanted to see him kind of play through some adversity. And I told him that before the scrimmage. I wanted to push him a little bit and I thought he did a good job catching the ball out of the backfield. I really wanted him to improve a little more, probably on his pass protection. That’s one of the things that he will talk about, being a little more aggressive without the ball. But definitely he is improving, definitely catching the ball out of the backfield and I thought he did a good job of making people miss in the open field.”

Corbin ran 81 times for 401 yards and five touchdowns while also catching 19 passes for 115 yards in 2020. He also did it in a year in which he was working his way back from a devastating injury, one in which his hamstring was torn off the tailbone.

There have been positive pieces and areas of concern as FSU’s offense tries to find a rhythm, build chemistry and sustain drives. Corbin’s continued growth — in the weight room, on the field and as a leader — are reasons for optimism this spring.

Recovery and the road back

With David Johnson watching Jashaun Corbin goes through drills in March 2020. (photo by Bob Ferrante)

The play was 18 months ago but quite fresh in Corbin’s memory. In the second week of what could have been a promising season for the Texas A&M tailback, Corbin caught a screen pass before taking a vicious hit.

“I caught the ball and I saw the safety, he read the play,” Corbin said. “When he grabbed me, he pulled me. He jerked me back. What really caused the injury was one of the d-tackles sandwiched both of us. I was on the bottom of the sandwich. And I basically did a complete split. My hamstring came off the tailbone.”

The injury was severe, although Corbin and the team’s trainers didn’t know it at the time. He tried to walk and almost fell. The hamstring — muscles that connect to the pelvis, knee and shin — was painful. But when they touched the top of the hamstring, “that’s where it really hurt,” Corbin recalls.

“They assumed it wasn’t good because upper hamstring injuries are normally worse than lower,” Corbin said. “Lower hamstrings are normally where you pull it or strain it, nothing too crazy.”

Corbin had surgery a few days later, moving as little as possible. There was swelling, which is quite normal from the surgery, but he couldn’t do much more than lay in bed in the hotel as his mom did what she could to help.

In the coming weeks, he began rehab. Corbin thanked the medical staff as Texas A&M for helping him gradually through basic exercises. 

“At first I couldn’t even lift my leg,” Corbin said. “Hamstring curl — I couldn’t even do that, strengthening my glutes and my calves. Did a lot of virtual reality. Got in the pool, an underwater treadmill. Just started walking. The rehab process is hard but they made it easier.”

A native of Rockledge, Fla., Corbin opted to transfer to FSU in December 2019. When he showed up for the first of what would be three spring practices in March, Corbin looked and ran quite well albeit with the knee brace. He didn’t look like a tailback who sustained a major injury just six months prior.

“I felt good but it was still kind of new,” Corbin said. “I didn’t go through the mat drills. I was still in the rehab process. It was more the mental part of the injury. It felt good to be out there honestly. You still have your doubts in your mind but we had no contact so I wasn’t really playing – it was just a point of trying to get back into it.”

FSU football head athletic trainer Jake Pfeil has dealt with a variety of injuries throughout the years. The hamstrings are a critical component for athletes but even more so for a skill player like a tailback or receiver.

“We tell people the hamstrings are like your brakes,” Pfeil said. “We equate it to sports cars, you can’t drive it fast if you can’t slow it down. If you don’t have great brakes to stop that Lamborghini then you’re not going to go fast in that Lamborghini. The hamstring, part of their function is to slow you down and decelerate you. So guys have to have that confidence to run fast and be who you are. Without a healthy hamstring you’re not going to be that person.”

Corbin returned to the field in the fall and played in FSU’s opener against Georgia Tech on Sept. 12, a year and a day after his surgery. He ran six times for 18 yards but also caught eight passes for 55 yards. The benefit of coach Mike Norvell’s running back by committee approach meant Corbin didn’t have to carry the load. But he also had more carries as the season progressed, rushing for 61 yards in the loss at Louisville, 77 yards and a touchdown in the loss at NC State and 72 yards and three touchdowns in the home win over Duke.

“I don’t honestly remember what part of the season where it clicked, where I started feeling like myself,” Corbin said. “But as the season progressed I just started getting more comfortable, started getting the injury further back in my mind. Saying ‘I’m fine.’ Just trusting myself. As the season progressed my confidence grew. The coaches here, the trainers here, everybody played a huge part in keeping me uplifted. I’m just thankful for that.”

‘He’s wired right’

Jashaun Corbin
Jashaun Corbin celebrates a touchdown run with FSU’s linemen in October. (Photo by Don Juan Moore)

Corbin’s hamstring injury has often been described as just that, an injury. He has discussed the surgery before but not in great detail and said he’s not sure FSU fans knew what he went through to get back on the field.

When Corbin returned to the field in September, he was productive but not explosive. Part of it was the lack of a spring practice or conventional offseason strength and conditioning program. 

“He probably needed that spring ball to gain some of that confidence he was lacking,” Pfeil said.

Upon reflection, Corbin looked good. But the difference even from September to November, not to mention now, is remarkable.

“Sure he could play but he’s different now than he was then in a really good way,” Pfeil said. “That’s what people forget. These things just take their time. You did start to see it that final month of the season that he looked way more comfortable and fluid and confident.”

Pfeil credits Corbin’s work ethic for battling the mental and physical side of rehab. “He’s wired right,” Pfeil said. This offseason has shown Corbin’s desire to add strength and learn from Storms, who has also seen him grow as a leader and is “letting his personality out more” as he helps the other tailbacks.

If there is a word that FSU coaches are using throughout this spring it is “consistent.” They are seeing it or seeking it. In Corbin’s case, it’s evident. 

“He is a great leader, a guy that is very consistent,” Norvell said. “He wasn’t perfect in all things that he did (Saturday), but he’s definitely extremely consistent. It means the world to him and every day he’s showing up, showing some really good flashes.”