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Friday January 22nd

'A game of my own': Living with diabetes, Beau Corrales a key part of UNC football

UNC wide receiver Beau Corrales (15) celebrates his touchdown reception during the football game against Clemson on Saturday, Sept. 28th, 2019 at Kenan Memorial Stadium. UNC lost to Clemson 21-20.
Buy Photos UNC wide receiver Beau Corrales (15) celebrates his touchdown reception during the football game against Clemson on Saturday, Sept. 28th, 2019 at Kenan Memorial Stadium. UNC lost to Clemson 21-20.

At the conclusion of North Carolina’s fall camp in August, offensive coordinator Phil Longo pulled Beau Corrales to the side. 

Longo expected more from the junior wide receiver. At times in the offseason, Corrales would show off his big-play capability, stretching out his 6-foot-4 frame to grab contested balls over smaller defensive backs. Other times, he’d drop wide-open catches. 

“There’s days whenever I know I’m at my best personally,” Corrales said, “and there’s days whenever I can feel that I’m not quite at that level.”

But Longo demanded consistency. He knew there was more to Corrales’ game than what he’d seen. 

It turns out, he was right. 

Through the Tar Heels’ first six games in 2019, Corrales is third on the team with 213 receiving yards and 18 receptions. 

In UNC’s season-opening win over South Carolina, he caught a touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave his team its first lead of the game. Versus then-top-ranked Clemson, his 10-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter ended a 20-plus minute scoring drought for the Tar Heels.

“Beau’s definitely a gamer,” first-year quarterback Sam Howell said. “When the lights come on, that’s when his best comes out.” 

Corrales said being “locked in mentally” has helped him find his groove. But before he could do that, he had to overcome an obstacle that was much more serious.

When Corrales was 12 years old, he felt something wasn’t right with his body. In a middle school class, he couldn’t read the projector screen clearly from the back of the classroom. Everything was blurry. 

Then, he began to lose weight. The Georgetown, Texas native dropped from 110 to 90 pounds that same year. While his mother, Tammy, thought it was a sign of puberty, Corrales knew what he was experiencing was far from normal. 

Soon, he learned he had Type 1 diabetes. 

Time in the hospital after his diagnosis forced Corrales to miss a large chunk of his seventh grade football season, but after he was released, he increased his calorie consumption to regain weight and get back to playing. 

Though he’s since had to closely monitor his blood sugar levels, Corrales was able to excel on the field. 

He earned first-team all-district honors, and received a Class 5A all-state honorable mention as a senior at Texas’ Georgetown High School.

“Football has always been an escape for me, and diabetes wasn’t going to change that,” Corrales said. 

Now, he still has to use a constant glucose monitor, which connects to his phone via Bluetooth, at all times. If his blood sugar gets too low, he feels lightheaded and lethargic; if it gets too high, he finds difficulty breathing and has to take insulin.

The condition has caused Corrales to occasionally be late to team meetings and lifts at UNC.

“It’s difficult because I’m trying to play football,” he said. “I’m trying to play a game while balancing a game of my own.”

This season, Corrales’ balancing act has led to on-field production.

“He has an edge on game day. He’s made a number of big-time, contested catches for us on big downs,” Longo said. “He’s blocking well. He’s running good routes. He’s doing the things that we would ask.”

A three-star recruit in the class of 2017, Corrales said he chose to play at North Carolina because of the training staff’s plan to help him manage his health. During an official visit, former head coach Larry Fedora showed Corrales a PowerPoint that detailed how he’d be accommodated. 

Corrales said that Mack Brown and the new staff have done just as much to provide him with support. What’s made the real difference, however, has been Corrales' no-excuses mindset.

“In the real world, nobody cares,” he said. “They just want to see production. Which sounds kinda hard, but at the end of the day, that’s what I’m here for — I’m here to produce.”

When Corrales was a kid playing backyard football, he envisioned himself contributing for a Division I school. Growing up 30 minutes from Texas’ campus, he attended many Longhorns games and dreamed of one day playing for Brown. 

A newfound consistency in his performance on the field, and with his health, has allowed him to successfully do both. 

“I’m excited,” Corrales said. “I’m grateful to be where I’m at, but I’m nowhere near the receiver I want to be yet.” 


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