Auburn, Ala.--After being dismissed from the University of Georgia football squad for violating of team rules following the 2013 season, safety Tray Matthews was given another chance to play in the SEC with the Auburn Tigers.
Following a season on the scout team while redshirting as a transfer, Matthews said he is appreciative of his opportunity. With the Tigers moving into the second half of spring training, Matthews is making a push to be a starter this fall.
“Everything is going well,” he said. “I love it here. My auntie stays down here and a lot of my family, my grandma.
"The players just brought me on in and loved me and the coaches. Malzahn, he put his trust in me, and I love him for that and I always keep that on my mind. It is why I go hard every day in practice.
“Some of the boys on the team ask me, ‘Do you ever get tired?’ I have got to take advantage of my second chance. This is what second chances feel like. They don’t understand, but if they were in my shoes they would understand it.”
Matthews said the worst part of being dismissed from the UGA team was how the situation impacted his mother and other relatives.
“We are a very close family,” he pointed out. “We are big on God. We go to church every Sunday. It was hard for them, very hard for them. It hurt me more to see my mom cry and it hurt her to see people talk about her son so it affected me a little bit.
“I knew I could just move on and learn from my mistakes,” he added. “I knew I had another opportunity coming. I had a praying grandma, my whole family praying for me. It was just hard for me to see my mom cry. That was the most hurtful part of that situation for me.”
Matthews, who is 6-1, 203 pounds, showed promise last fall on the scout team and is currently make a strong push to finish spring drills at the top of the depth chart. During Saturday’s scrimmage Matthews and Johnathan Ford were the first team safeties.
The defense as a whole had a good performance in the scrimmage and the secondary was part of that with help from Matthews, who just missed getting an interception on a pass thrown by Jeremy Johnson.
“It was a route going across the middle, kind of to the right, and I was the left safety,” Matthews pointed out. “He threw it and I had a real good break on the ball. I dove, and some people said I dove like five yards to get it. I had it in my hands, hit the ground and it popped up.
“I could have got a pick,” he added. “It was a dropped pick so I did my pushups, 10 pushups.”
Tray Matthews is from Newnan, Ga., and is a player the Tigers recruited when he was in high school.
Matthews said he believes he has matured both on and off the field since his freshman season at Georgia where he made 36 tackles and one interception in eight games with six starts.
“I was very immature,” he admitted. “I started as a true freshman, everything was coming at me real fast. Me and my dad would talk about how physically I was ready for the game at Georgia, but mentally I wasn’t ready. I learned from my mistakes.
“I learned that you have got to take advantage of every opportunity," Matthews said. "I had a great opportunity over there at Georgia, but now I think I have an even better opportunity.
"I have a great coach, Coach (Will) Muschamp. I mean, I always dreamed of having a great defensive coordinator like that. He kind of reminds me of Coach Grantham (former UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham) so I have a great opportunity.”
While Muschamp is coordinating Auburn's defense, Travaris Robinson is coaching the defensive backs with help from graduate assistant coach Blake Gideon. Matthews said the group is making a positive difference in his play.
“I’m coming along very well, getting better every day,” the safety said. “Of course, I’ve still got a lot of things to work on, but Muschamp and T-Rob and Coach Gideon, they’re polishing my craft so I feel like I am going do very well this season and excel in this defense.”
Matthews and the rest of the Tigers will return to the practice field on Tuesday. Auburn’s annual spring game will be held on Saturday, April 18th.
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