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6 Chapters from the Book on Jets' 3rd-Round Draft Pick, WR Malachi Corley

His Small-Town, Small-College Roots and His Inclusive Attitude Toward All the Communities He's a Part Of

Western Kentucky wide receiver Malachi Corley (11) prepares to fend off Hawaii defensive back Matagi Thompson (25) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Malachi Corley, the new wideout weapon taken by the Jets at the tippy-top of the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday night, has a rat-a-tat-tat speaking style that could remind many of his catching, running and YAC-ing style as a four-year player, three-year starter and two-year star at Western Kentucky.

"He plays with violence, anger, and you can do a lot of different things with him," Jets GM Joe Douglas said Friday night. "The way he catches the ball, the way he attacks defenders after the catch, it was a good fit for the style we want to play."

Raised in a Small Town
Corley went from a smallish town, Orange City, FL, 30 miles north of Orlando, to a smaller town, Campbellsville, KY, when his mom, Latonya Bridgewater, moved the family to be closer to Corley's sister, who attended Campbellsville U. on a volleyball scholarship.

Malachi immediately established himself as a top athlete at Campbellsville HS. As a junior, he was named 2018 District Player of the Year with 2,500-plus all-purpose yards and 94 tackles. As a senior he accounted for 21 touchdowns (10 rushing, 10 receiving, one punt return) and was named District POY for the second straight season. He also averaged 17.5 points/game as a four-year starting guard on the basketball team and ran track in the spring.

Stepping Up in Class
Despite his scholastic success, Corley had some things working against him as he considered college. He played at a 250-student high school in Kentucky's smallest class level (1A), was a two-star recruit and was the 268th cornerback in the 2020 recruiting class. He eventually earned 10 Division I offers, but nine were from FCS schools. His lone FBS offer: Western Kentucky, which wanted him to come in as a corner.

But the Hilltoppers moved him to wide receiver during preseason practices his freshman season. Smart move, as he would go on over four seasons to set a school record with his 259 career receptions.

Yakkity YAK
Corley and others established him as Western Kentucky's "YAC King," a nickname that Jets HC Robert Saleh said "he's deserving of." And the numbers second those emotions. He led FBS in YAC average and forced missed tackles by a WR this past season. And in 2022 and '23 combined, he averaged 9.2 YAC/catch for his 180 receptions.

Malachi even has a chain in the works to let people know that he is indeed the YAC KING. "The chain, that's on standby. We're going to wait a little longer for that one," he told NFL Network. "But my mentality on the field when I get the ball is just to make something magic happen."

A Regular Homebody ...
Corley was asked why, after his 101-catch, 1,293-yard, 11-TD junior season, he didn't pack up his stuff and head for the transfer portal to a larger program to enhance his profile even more heading into this draft. He said that wasn't the way he saw things at WKU.

"Ultimately, it was my relationship with the people of Bowling Green, the town, the community, my staff, the people who believed in me from the time I got there," he said. "My strength coach, my receivers coach were there the entire time with me and were more interested in my growth as a man and a human being rather than just as a player. It was somewhere where I had enough support and love. ... It was very important to me to have that camaraderie and that family around me while I'm still getting to play the game that I love."

... And a Community Organizer
Corley paid those feelings forward when he and his family started to prepare for the draft in Campbellsville. And the 22-year-old had some very grownup thoughts about how he wanted to celebrate getting drafted. It was with his family ... and then some.

"Some things can be a moment, or they can be a movement. For me to be the first person to sign a Division I letter of intent from my high school, I think it was important for me to have a community event," he said of the draft celebration he envisioned. "So I'll have some inflatables out there, I think it's more instrumental having that community event rather than just being for myself. It's definitely going to be a city-wide event. And hopefully I can get as many kids as I can there and be able to lift up those guys and show them what it'll be like if they just dedicate a little bit of their lives to it."

Where Will Jets Slot Him?
The desire will be to get Corley up to speed all around the Jets offense, yet in his three starting seasons, he took 91.6% of his snaps as a slot receiver. Saleh was asked if that might mean he'll be predominantly a slot receiver with the Jets. Saleh wasn't going to be pinned down on that, and echoed some of his GM's words of "anger" about Malachi's playing style in the process.

"Malachi's not just limited to the slot," Saleh said. "He's a dude, you get the ball in his hands and let him go to work. He's a guy that plays angry, runs angry. And we're excited to have him."

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