Offensive linemen are known for their size, power, and raw strength. But Villanova guard Michael Corbi offers something else you don’t always see in a 6-foot-3, 335-pound frame: speed.
The Arnold, Maryland native can not only block pancakes with the best, but he can also wreak havoc in the outfield by throwing or popping out in front of screens.
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Corbi has become one of the best linemen in the CAA, despite a late start. Soccer wasn’t his main sport growing up, at least not the American version.
He started playing soccer at a young age. His interest in the sport stemmed from a family vacation in Italy when he was 6 years old. It was 2006, the year Italy won the World Cup, and Corbi watched several matches on television while he was there.
“I was 6 years old, but I vividly remember seeing people on the news jumping into the fountain, the fireworks and just the passion for football,” Corbi recalled. “I fell in love with the sport and have always been a fan of Italy.”
Corbi was tall for his age but not too big. By eighth grade, he began to gain weight. His father, Tony, a former defensive end at Towson, encouraged him to start playing football. As much as he enjoyed soccer, he didn’t see it as a ticket to the college level, so he decided to give it a try.
“(My dad) always wanted me to play soccer,” Corbi said. “He never pushed because he knew I loved football, but by the time I was ready to play football, he was definitely excited.”
Corbi started on the JV team at Mount Saint Joseph High School as a 5-foot-8, 200-pound lineman. After joining the varsity team, he grew both physically and talent-wise.
Having quick feet in football helped ease the transition to offensive lineman. Corbi even played a bit of defensive line his senior year, which made his dad proud.
“My dad was anxious, almost too anxious, to train sometimes,” Corbi said. “He had a lot of balance and I was very comfortable going back. With the line out, it was about work ethic and being more competitive.”
Although soccer had been Corbi’s passion growing up, soccer was certainly no stranger to him. Tony had season tickets to Baltimore Ravens games, and Michael hung out with him often.
By the time he graduated from Mount Saint Joseph, Corbi had won three college degrees in football and was a first-team All-MIAA honoree. He also got letters in rugby and indoor track and field.
Corbi had an interest in engineering in high school and took a trip to visit Villanova as a regular student. He liked the campus and the fact that the school had a top-notch engineering program, so he sent soccer videos to the coaching staff. At first he received no answer.
Bucknell showed interest and even offered a scholarship. Corbi briefly considered quitting football altogether and attending Virginia Tech, his mother Trisha’s alma mater.
During her senior year of high school, Corbi decided to send Villanova a video one more time. This time, he got an answer and went to visit as a football recruit. His host turned out to be Colin Gamroth, now a senior and Corbi’s teammate on the offensive line.
“I clicked with Gamroth right away,” Corbi recalled. “The people here, the campus, the academic support… I was impressed that people could compete at such a high level but also excel academically at such a rigorous institution. I wanted to commit right away.”
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The only catch was that Corbi had scheduled a recruiting trip to Bucknell the following week. After that visit, he still chose Villanova, even though he was offered a spot as preferred escort.
Wildcats head coach Mark Ferrante was as impressed by Corbi’s persistence and intelligence as he was by his football talent.
“We’re a little bit limited in the places on our list,” Ferrante explained. “It takes a little time to assess who those guys are going to be. He chased us just as hard as we chased him. We’re glad he did. He’s developed himself through his hard work and intelligence.” “.
Corbi wore the red jersey in his first year and was a substitute until the 2020-2021 season.
When he first arrived on campus, the strength and conditioning staff set about reshaping his body. He lost 90 pounds before regaining game weight for an offensive lineman. He also changed his diet to include more chicken and green vegetables.
“It wasn’t that I was eating too much, I was just eating the wrong kind of stuff,” Corbi explained. “It was more education than diet.”
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The 2020-2021 spring/fall season was Corbi’s first as a starter. He earned first-team All-CAA honors, starting all four games at center. The Wildcats averaged 398.2 yards per game of total offense that season, including a 208.2 rushing average.
Last season, the Associated Press and Stats Perform named him a second-team All-American. He started 12 games at left guard in a line that allowed just 14 sacks all season. The Wildcats’ offense ranked second in the CAA averaging 30.1 points per game and 380.0 yards of total offense per game.
Corbi attributes his individual success to the players around him on the lane, particularly Gamroth.
“Colin and I probably watch at least 20 hours of film a week trying to get ready for a game,” he said. “It’s a team game. Having people like Colin by your side, I think he’s one of the best human beings I’ve ever met.”
Corbi missed spring practice to undergo surgery for a shoulder injury that had been bothering him for quite some time.
This season, he’s the starting right guard, proving he can play multiple positions. He was voted a Stats Perform and Athlon Sports FCS preseason All-American and earned a spot on the CAA preseason all-conference team.
“He can play almost anywhere,” Ferrante said. “He’s smart enough, athletic enough and skilled enough to play any of those positions.”
One of Corbi’s biggest losses occurred more than a year ago off the field. His best friend from high school, Noah Blonder, was killed in a car accident.
Blonder was a junior hockey player and the two became friends shortly after Corbi arrived at Mount Saint Joseph. Corbi writes the inscription ‘NB25’ on his wrist before every game to honor the memory of his friend.
“It really puts things into perspective that life is short,” Corbi said. “It’s a reminder (to) give it your all. You don’t know if you have a tomorrow.”
As immersed as he is in football, Corbi still keeps a close eye on him. He plays FIFA on his Xbox and isn’t shy about sharing his numbers.
“I can proudly say I’m 38-0 on the team,” he said. “It’s not an easy competition, but nobody loves the game as much as I do.”
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Corbi graduated with a degree in psychology last spring and will finish her engineering degree this December. She has another year of eligibility to play next season, but hasn’t decided whether to use it yet. She is also considering medical school. Then there is the possibility of considering an opportunity in the NFL.
It’s always good to have options, but Corbi is focused on the season.
“There are personal accolades that I would like to achieve, but no more than repeat as CAA champion and compete for a national championship,” Corbi said.