While watching Camden High tailback Shymeik Corbett wind his way around and through would-be tacklers during a practice last fall, a teammate watching from the sideline watched in admiration.
“I like playing with Shymeik,” the player said. “He fast and doesn’t like to get hit.”
Case in point, last season the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Corbett touched the football 134 times. The senior found his way into the end zone 18 times for a scoring ratio of one touchdown per 7.4 touches.
One thing Corbett could not avoid was attracting the attention of opposing coaches and then, from college football coaches. By the time spring rolled around, Corbett signed a National Letter of Intent with Erskine College which will re-start its football program in 2020 after not having fielded a team since the 1951 season.
Having to wait an entire fall before playing his next football game will be a new experience for the speedy Corbett who smiled when asked if he has always been the fastest player on the teams he was on. Then, again, he will not have to worry about the pounding most college football players take while he and his Flying Fleet teammates wait to play their first game.
“It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be different, but I’ll adapt to it,” Corbett said of what he will do with his newfound free time next fall. “It will give me a year to work harder and to get bigger, stronger and faster for the year after that.”
Getting faster than he already is will allow the two-sport standout --- football and track in which he runs the sprint events --- to continue to weave his way in and out of trouble and avoid the big hits which no skill position player wants to take.
“It made it easier,” he said with a smile about not taking hard licks from enemy defenses. “If I don’t have to get to contact, I’m going to avoid it. It’s way easier for me to score that way.”
When asked his favorite football memory from his three varsity seasons as a Bulldog, Corbett had a quick answer at the ready.
“That’s easy; the Keenan game last year,” he said before breaking out into a laugh. “I had three touches and three touchdowns. I didn’t get tackled that game.”
Brought up to the varsity as a sophomore, Corbett scored four touchdowns that season with three of those coming via touchdown catches. In 2017, first-year Camden head coach Brian Rimpf and his staff put Corbett in the slot. He had a team-best 26 catches for 357 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also had 21 carries for 120 yards. He returned 11 kicks for 299 yards with one going for an 85-yard touchdown in a win over North Central.
Wanting to get the ball into his playmaker’s hands more, Rimpf switched Corbett to tailback heading into his senior season. Corbett responded by leading the 8-4 Bulldogs in points (108), touchdowns (18), rushing yards (915), rushing touchdowns (nine), touchdown catches (nine) and kick returns with a 22.0 yard per return average.
“We said that we had to get Shymeik the ball more and we put him in the backfield where we could just hand it to him and, toss it to him. It was beneficial for us,” Rimpf said. “He was our home run threat. Every time we handed him the ball, there was a chance that he was going to score. Not everybody is like that, but that’s what he was for us. He did a great job at it.”
Corbett credited Camden High running backs coach SaVonn Wingate with his becoming the tailback he became in his one full season in the backfield. Working in the weight room, Corbett said, allowed him to run between the tackles in 2018.
“In the 1th grade,” he said, “I wasn’t working with the running backs. I was working with the receivers and we didn’t work on things like that. My senior year, I started working with coach Wingate and we worked on running back drills, balance drills and stuff like that and I was able to break tackles.
“We got bigger, faster and stronger in the weight room. It was hard work. I didn’t want to do it, at times, but I still came out and did what I had to do.”
His hard work paid off in his being offered a grant-in-aid by Erskine head coach Shap Boyd who put together an attractive package for Corbett which, ultimately, led to his signing with a program which has not played a game in 68 seasons.
“I chose Erskine because it’s not too far from home. They gave me the most scholarship money and they gave me a good opportunity to play football,” said Corbett who first started playing football when he was eight and believed he could play at the next level after getting his first taste of varsity competition as a sophomore.
“I was young and I was scoring touchdowns against people who were a lot older than me. I started thinking that this is what I wanted to do in college,” he said of when his thoughts turned to being able to play college football.
Saying his team’s entire backfield played hard, provided leadership and plenty of touchdowns this past season, Rimpf said Corbett is a gifted player who will succeed at the next level.
“Shymeik has always been a kid with great athletic ability,” Rimpf said. “He was one of our fastest players and has been every year that he played here. It’s a God-given ability that he has been able to utilize on the football field.
The Flying Fleet coaches have told Corbett that they will look at him at running back, slot receiver and returning kicks. His preference is to keep carrying the football, but playing more than one position for a team in which all spots will be up for grabs is a plus for Corbett.
“Anytime you can play multiple positions, it helps you get on the field quicker,” Rimpf said. “Most teams have a good running back; it’s where they put their best players. When Shymeik gets to the next level, what’s going to separate him is that he’s not a real big guy, but he’s fast. It’s hard to coach speed. You either have it or, you don’t. Shymeik has it.
“Those guys at Erskine are going to be excited about him being a home run threat every time he gets the ball he can score a touchdown.”
Corbett acknowledged that he still has some rough edges which he can polish up next fall as the Flying Fleet will have plenty of practice time in order to prepare for the re-unveiling of their football team. Shymeik Corbett said it will be a learning experience for him on and off the field.
“I have to work harder, get better at route-running, my feet better and just continue to learn my plays and things like that,” he said. “I have a lot to learn including how to manage my time.”