Beau Knows Production: Corrales Pushing Through Type 1 Diabetes to Become Reliable Target for Tar Heels

Brant Wilkerson-New

For better or worse, nothing has stopped Beau Corrales — or so he thought.

In his mind, the big Texan has gone after he what he wanted and gone all-in, whether it was grinding his way to a Division I football scholarship, moving halfway across the country to realize that dream at North Carolina or, to the brief disappointment of his parents, covering his left arm and right leg in tattoos.

Just before the start of his senior year of high school, Corrales couldn’t hold out any longer on getting his first, getting Bible verse 1 John 4:18 tattooed on his chest.

“My parents were livid,” he said. “They were telling me to wait until I was 18; I went to a janky artist when I was 17 — right before — couldn’t wait a week. He screwed me up pretty bad and I ended up having to spend some extra money on someone to fix it.”

The pieces on his left arm flow from to the next, all with some meaning for the junior receiver. There’s his hometown area code from Austin, a pair of praying hands holding a rosary along with the word “Believe” and phrase “Thick and Thin.”

Like his rise for the Tar Heels this season, the art had taken hours of intricate, focused work. And like his game, the sleeves are still a work in progress — but there’s no doubt that attention to detail is the difference between that first tattoo mishap and the masterpiece he’s hoping to see in the end.

To achieve that same level of excellence on the field, Corrales had to come to terms with the fact that something was stopping him from being his absolute best.

Since getting a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes in seventh grade, he’s overcome more than most to even play football, much less reach this level, but if he wanted to reach his potential, it was no longer acceptable for the disease to make him late or result in a bad practice.

“I think it took the realization of this for me — which took me a lot longer than I would have liked it to — in the real world, nobody cares,” Corrales said. “They just want to see production, which sounds kind of hard, but at the end of the day, that’s what I’m here for. I’m here to produce and even though Type 1 is a very big part of me, I had to just learn to manage to the best of my ability and even on my bad days, I’ve got to bring it 100 percent.”

Battling highs and lows

According to the American Diabetes Association, Diabetes affects about 30 million Americans, although T1D is far less common, occurring in about 1.25 million children and young adults.

In T1D, the pancreas produces little or no insulin, causing debilitating effects as the body struggles to regulate glucose, meaning there’s the possibility of Corrales having his blood-sugar crash overnight even though he’s constantly monitoring his blood sugar via a constant glucose monitor that connects to his phone via Bluetooth.

“I’m almost in an unconscious state,” he said. “It’s really hard to get me up and wake up and stuff, which is why I was showing up to a couple of meetings and stuff.”

Going too far other direction is devastating, too.

“You feel overwhelmed almost,” he said. “You get a headache, you feel it and it’s hard to breathe a little more. If you’re out running routes and stuff and your blood sugar goes skyrocketing, I mean, it takes a toll on your body and you just feel super tired and it just weighs out on you.”

Luckily for Corrales, he realized shortly after receiving the diagnosis in seventh grade that not only was football an escape, but it also had a positive effect in helping to keep his glucose levels in the ideal range.

Every step he’s taken to keep his health in check along the way has also been a step toward becoming the player he wants to be, too.

“I feel like working out as a receiver, you’re never done,” he said. “There’s always more stuff to improve on. Any times I’ve been frustrated … whether it’s diabetes that’s frustrating me or something else, I’m able to go workout and practice and stuff and work on my own craft and get better and it takes my mind off it.”

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Corrales had a total of 27 catches for 363 yards and five touchdowns over his first two seasons. He has 18 catches for 203 yards and three touchdowns through six games this season.James Guillory | USA TODAY Sports

Taking the next step

You’re never done perfecting your craft as a receiver, but the issue for Corrales came in getting started with the new Carolina staff.

Coach Mack Brown said the Corrales they’d seen since their arrival last November was inconsistent and didn’t get much better in training camp.

“Truthfully, and I’ve told him this, I wanted to see more and get more out of him in August camp,” offensive coordinator Phil Longo said.

Those tough mornings led to a few instances of showing up late, and regardless of the reason, Corrales was told he had to meet the standard.

“When we first got here, it was a couple of times but I talked to him and Coach Brown talked to him and it hasn’t been an issue since,” receivers coach Lonnie Galloway said. “He was late for something and that got fixed quick. It’s a serious situation, but everybody has things and Coach expects all of us to be on time and he put that in perspective.”

One of Longo’s young daughters battles T1D, and given his understanding of the disease, he’s been able to relate to where Corrales is coming from and what has previously limited him both physically and mentally.

Understanding doesn’t mean acceptance of excuses, though.

“That was one of the biggest factors I was able to learn from Coach Longo, was that even though he has a daughter and understands the weight Type 1 brings with it, he expects the absolute best out of me every single day,” Corrales said. “Having him here and being able to realize that, coming from him especially, really helped me out to take the next step and get to where I need to be.”

While the physical limitations of T1D are serious and real, but Corrales knows that more than anything, his mental approach was what was limiting him from becoming a major contributor for the Tar Heels overt the past two seasons.

Now, he’s more aware of not only the type of focus he needs to play with, but when that focus begins o slip and how to get it back.

“I have to be able to check myself and lock in mentally and think to myself whether or not I'm performing at my best mentally, not just physically, because that's what it comes down to and that's what they've been telling us a bunch,” Corrales said.

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Corrales had five catches for 54 yards and a touchdown at Georgia Tech.ACC Digital Network

Reliable on gameday

Six games into his junior season, it’s all coming together for Corrales with 18 catches for 203 yards and three touchdowns, including one in each of the past two games.

“He has a knack on gameday,” Longo Said. “He’s made a number of big-time contested catches for us on big downs. He’s blocking well, he’s running good routes, he’s doing the things that we would ask of our right wide receiver.”

His first of the season was the game-winner vs. South Carolina on a play where quarterback Sam Howell simply tossed it up and trusted him to go get it.

Chances like that have come around more often as Howell hasn't hesitated to target No. 15 and his 6-4, 210-pound frame in traffic.

“He’s got a really big catch radius so if you throw that ball anywhere around him, he’s going to bring it down,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in him, especially down in the red zone, he’s a really big target for us."

That’s something that wouldn’t have happened in the past as he struggled with confidence amid inconsistency.

“I just have to be locked in mentally and be ready to make any catch that comes my way because I know that the opportunities are very few,” he said. “If I want them to be able to trust me, I've just got to be reliable on Saturdays."

Living the dream

Like the tattoo sleeve on his leg, it’s still a work in progress.

“It’s humbling to know I’m doing the stuff I dreamed of as a kid,” he said. “It’s a grateful feeling … I’m excited and grateful to be where I’m at, but I’m nowhere near the receiver I want to be. I feel like I’ve got more of an idea of the type of receiver I wanted to be whenever I got to college, but I still feel like I’m far from it. “

He’s living the dream this season of finally getting a chance at “Mossing” defenders by jumping over them to make catches and he’s living an even bigger one by playing for Brown after growing up a Longhorns fan and spending countless Saturdays in Austin.

And just as he saw the hall of fame coach lead Texas to incredible heights during his childhood, Corrales is now realizing just how far Brown and his staff can push him.

“I think Beau has been one of the most pleasant surprises since we've been here,” Brown said. “He has really stepped up. He has done an amazing job of fighting through the stuff that he has to fight with, with his sugar blood level and all that stuff, and playing, and being consistent.

“I’m amazed at Beau and how far he’s come and how well he’s done.”

Comments (1)
No. 1-1
TypeCastedDiabetes
TypeCastedDiabetes

Great article, but Corrales is #15. He's incredible, in spite of T1D. So, please use photos of #15's amazing catches instead of photos of other players. This Tar Heel deserves the headline and to be featured visually in the article about him. My comment directly to Beau, you have a huge fan rooting specifically for you every week! I have had T1D for 25 years. I also have other unrelated health problems that have complicated my T1D, but I have always found a way to make the most of my life in spite of the physical struggles. You are performing so well and if you ever hear someone shouting "T1D" from the stands on the top level to the left of the student section when you are on the field, it is a fellow T1D that gets it and is cheering hard for you!