Injured but not down: The journey of UNC wide receiver Beau Corrales

By Christian Randolph

Imagine being a standout wide receiver heading into your senior season while wondering at the same time if you have already played the last snap of your college football career.

Thanks to a recurring injury requiring three separate surgeries over the course of the past two years, Beau Corrales has been on a rollercoaster ride for what seems like the longest season ever.

As a senior, the prospect of not playing football again is what keeps him up at night.

The start of a back-and-forth journey

With the NCAA’s decision to extend an extra year of eligibility to senior football players prior to the 2021-2022 season, Corrales has been wondering for a while whether he will be able to take advantage of this opportunity or if he will have to move on from the sport.

“I’ve been trying to take things day by day,” Corrales said. “For now, I’m doing my best to get back to play the final few games of the season, and I’m just trying to take things as they come.”

Getting back on the field has been a difficult task for Corrales. It began with nagging abdominal pain at the start of the 2020 season which sidelined him.

Diagnosed with a sports hernia, a partial or full tear of the soft tissues in the lower abdomen, Corrales underwent typical hernia surgery and felt confident he would return to football in just two months.

However, after failing to progress during rehab, Corrales quickly found himself back to where he started prior to surgery.

“I felt like I hit a wall,” Corrales said. “I wasn’t making any progress in rehab and the pain wouldn’t go away.”

Frustration seeps in

For the next three months, Corrales sat on the sidelines as the Tar Heels played in an empty Kenan Stadium due to the restrictions put in place to control the spread of COVID-19.

Frustrated by his plight, Corrales eventually traveled to Philadelphia to seek another opinion on his injury. Following an MRI, doctors noticed an apple-sized calcium deposit, and after a second surgery to shave down the calcium deposit, Corrales again returned to Chapel Hill hoping he would be able to play soon.

Upon his return to UNC, Corrales began the same rehab process over again: first walking slowly, then lifting lightly, and finally moving to agility drills and movements similar to practice scenarios. The senior from Georgetown, Texas even circled games on the calendar to provide motivation and hope for an accelerated recovery.

But, just two weeks before summer workouts, the pain crept back, and once again, Corrales found himself in scrubs at a Philadelphia sports medicine hospital.

According to Corrales, this third surgery was the procedure that should have been performed in the prior two surgeries: a complete cleanout of the nagging abdominal tissues and a tightening of the distance between the pubic bone and the lower chest.

Once again, he thought this was the surgery that finally would put him back on the field.

After seeing no improvement following workouts this past summer, Corrales again returned to the doctors, who gave him two steroid shots to reduce inflammation and pain. If the pain improved within the next two weeks, they suggested it might solve the problem entirely.

“This was such a tease,” Corrales said. “I felt the best I had felt leading up to fall ball, but I started to run routes the second day of fall camp and all the pain came back.”

Hope remains for a return

As the Tar Heels head into the seventh game of their season, Corrales has yet to play one snap, let alone put on his helmet and shoulder pads. Even though he can’t provide support with his talents on the field, he has been making sure that his presence is felt both on the sidelines and in the locker room.

On game days, Corrales stands on the sidelines in his Carolina jumpsuit, signaling plays to the offense and coaching up underclassmen.

“As a wide receiver on the team, Beau is always in my ear,” junior Gray Goodwyn said. “Whether he is correcting my route running or helping me understand plays, I am always sure to listen to his advice.”

Going through a rollercoaster of injuries as an older player on the team has provided Corrales with opportunities to encourage his teammates in ways that an injured underclassman might not be able to.

When it’s not game day, Corrales is breaking down the opponents’ film, looking for specific tendencies in their games, and then providing his notes to teammates. He is also in the weight room spotting the wide receivers as they bench press and squat hundreds of pounds.

Fortunately for Corrales, being able to help his teammates keeps him in good spirits but true positivity has been hard to come by.

Turning to his faith and mentor

In response, Corrales has turned to his faith for strength and has sought guidance from the men’s football team chaplain, Mitch Mason. Mason, a former athlete himself, was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease last year. Barely able to walk, he still shows up to practice at 6 a.m. and travels to every away game; all with a smile on his face.

“Watching him and seeing how he embodies the ‘walk in faith and give glory to God’ attitude has influenced me greatly,” Corrales said.

Mason and Corrales have used the common bond from their shared hardships to connect, and the two have used their faith as the foundation of that connection. The two often meet to discuss the significance of maintaining your faith in times of hardship. Corrales’ social media posts often share biblical verses and lessons learned from discussions with Mason.

“You have this guy [Chaplain Mason] who knows his days are never promised, and I think Beau has adopted the same mentality when it comes to football,” starting center Brian Anderson claims.

Like Mason, Corrales treats every day as a blessing. Through the hardships brought upon him by multiple injuries and surgeries over the course of his athletic career, he has learned to control what he can.

“To me, it’s not how you act when things are going well,” Corrales said. “I think one of the bigger testimonies in life is how you react to situations that don’t go in your favor.”

As the senior wide receiver likes to say, “No matter what, it doesn’t rain forever.”

Edited by: Austin Bean