New Orleans, La.--This is the time of year when draft eligible college football players from around the country are making decisions on their future and one of those guys for the Auburn Tigers is redshirt junior safety Tray Matthews.
Following an injury-plagued 2015 season, Matthews has remained healthy this year and it has shown in his play. Leading the Auburn defense with 73 tackles, the physical safety has sent his paperwork to the NFL for evaluation and admits he’s leaning towards returning, but that’s something he’ll decide in January.
“I’m not really sure,” Matthews said of what’s going to do. “I’m going to make the decision after the bowl game.
“Just because of how things changed over one year and how Coach (Kevin) Steele and the defensive staff, it’s just a great feeling,” he added of the mood surrounding the team. “Then you’ve got the new quarterback coming in (Jarrett Stidham) and Sean White will still be here and (Kamryn) Pettway will still be here. There’s a lot to look forward to next year.”
Something that could play into his choice is the loss of defensive backs Coach Wesley McGriff to Ole Miss, where he will be the defensive coordinator.
A coach that the players have gotten very close with in the last year, McGriff leaving hit Matthews hard but he said that he’ll soak up all of the knowledge he can from the veteran coach and that includes on the National Football League.
“It was very tough for me,” Matthews said. “It was a very emotional deal for me because he was like one of my new best friends, like a father figure to all of us. Just his charisma and what he brought to the table with his defense was amazing. I’m going to miss that.
“After the bowl game we’ll move forward and see what’s the deal,” he added. “Just with him being in the NFL and teaching us all of these new things, it has been a pleasure.”
For now Matthews and his Auburn teammates are focused on finishing this season on a high note and that means trying to get a victory over the Oklahoma Sooners.
A win would set up the Tigers with plenty of momentum heading into next year. Knowing all too well about playing through pain, Matthews said getting this team back closer to full speed has them excited about Monday night and what could be in the future.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “Everyone knows what we have and everyone knows what we’re capable of when everyone is healthy. I’m excited and everyone in the Auburn nation should be excited.”