ESPN 150 safety Tray Matthews (Newnan, Ga./Newnan) readily admits he is torn. He is caught between the weight of his commitment to the University of Georgia and his vow to play college football with his best friend, linebacker Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala./Auburn), who, after being committed to Alabama for nearly a year, switched his commitment last month to Auburn University.
For Matthews, the most convenient solution would be for Foster to decommit from the Tigers and join him at Georgia.
“That is not going to happen,” Matthews said.
The hard-hitting senior with the ever-present smile is known as a cut-up, a jokester. But he becomes uncharacteristically quiet when discussing his situation. Foster’s recent flip to Auburn caught Matthews off guard.
“He put me in a hard predicament,” Matthews said. “To be honest, at one point Reuben was really leaning towards UGA. I will put that out there. He really was. And in some kind of way Alabama messed it up for him. Then he went to Auburn and Trooper Taylor and all of them got on him. It was convenient for him to be in Auburn all the time. Then out of the blue he told me he was liking Auburn.
“I said, ‘Yeah, that is a nice school.’ I took a visit down there with him. I was thinking we are still going to the same school but I didn’t think he was serious about [Auburn]. So without even telling me one day, he committed to Auburn. I said, ‘What?’ He told everybody later, ‘They didn’t take me serious so I had to prove it to them.’ So it shocked me and I am in a hard spot.
“But I am a man of my word and I committed to Georgia first, right? So that is a big-time thing. We told everybody we were going to go to the same school but something has got to give. He told me he would understand if I chose UGA because I have to go with my heart and do what is best for me too. You are the only person I have told that to.”
Despite the increased pressure on Matthews, he is happy for Foster. In fact he even took another trip Saturday to Auburn to spend time with Foster and the Tigers’ coaching staff
“Reuben is doing good,” Matthews said. “He seems a lot happier now. A few weeks ago he was down. I’ve never seen him like that. But he was happy. He had all of his boys with him and we all had a good time. We were playing around, shooting the basketball and such -- we were doing all kind of crazy stuff down there.”
Matthews was accompanied on his visit by his family and his girlfriend.
“They liked most everything about it,” Matthews said. “The one thing my dad told me when we got there was, ‘Gene Chizik and Mark Richt are kind of identical. The way they talk, they way they carry themselves, they are humble, put God first. They keep talking about their family, and at the end of practice he [Chizik] prayed -- almost identical to Mark Richt.’
“He liked that the depth charts are almost identical, too. He kept talking about how Trooper Taylor is a character. Those two were cracking jokes the whole time.”
His mother had fun as well, but in a different manner.
“My mom was the same as last time,” Matthews said. “She kept saying, ‘Tray, we need to go back to Georgia. I want to head on to UGA.’ She was just messing around with Trooper Taylor and all of them. She actually wore a red dress up there. And my dad had on an orange shirt.”
Rumors swirled before the trip that Matthews planned to flip his commitment to Auburn on the trip. That did not happen.
“I am still 100 percent committed,” Matthews said. “I just took an unofficial visit. I am going to take official visits to USC, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia.”
The Auburn staff tried hard to sway Matthews, showing him a large poster that depicted a huge puzzle with a picture of Matthews as the missing piece. He tweeted a photo of the poster, which added to the Twitter firestorm surrounding his trip.
“I saw it got a little crazy on Twitter,” said Matthews, who endured some of his followers questioning his integrity while others pressed him to flip. “Whoo! I really wanted to reply back to some of those people, but I know I can’t do that. I can’t say bad stuff because that will make me look bad. Then again, I am really calm about it because that is what comes with all this stuff.
“You know, Reuben went through the same thing and he was upset about it,” Matthews said. “He warned me about it so I was ready for it.”
The Auburn fans turned out in droves Saturday and have continued to extol the virtues of their school to Matthews every day.
“They are coming at me very aggressive,” Matthews said. “And the more I think about it, I don’t want them to come at me super hard or get too excited, because what if I don’t choose Auburn, then how are they going to feel? So, I really just want them to calm down. They are crazy, aggressive and they come after the Georgia fans. They are always arguing on my timeline, too. It is almost as if they are saying they have me and they are telling the Georgia fans to move on.”
The Georgia fans were not going anywhere. While many of them praised Matthews and tried to remind him why he committed in the first place, a number took exception to his visiting an archrival.
“I was looking at them getting mad, but we are kids; we are just having fun,” Matthews said. “Of course I am committed to Georgia and I have been saying I am committed to Georgia in every article I have been in. I feel like, ‘Man, I am a kid. I can do what I want to, can’t I?’ I can go have fun, take my unofficial and official visits. I am still a kid and I still want to have fun on visits. I got a homeboy that goes to Auburn, so I can’t go chill with him? We are always going to chill, regardless. If I stay with Georgia I am still going to come to Auburn sometimes and chill with him. That is not going to change.”