The University of Georgia had one committed recruit among the 90 participants in the Rising Seniors Bowl game played Saturday in Atlanta. Safety Tray Matthews (Newnan, Ga./Newnan) made huge plays in the game to lead the West team to victory, 27-20, just as he had all week during the bowl practices.
How long Matthews stays committed to Georgia may depend entirely on whether his best friend, linebacker and Alabama commit Reuben Foster (Lagrange, Ga./Troup County), can be persuaded to come to Athens.
“People say that I am going to Alabama with him and some people say he is coming to Georgia with me,” Matthews said. “We are really trying to get together. I don’t know which way it is going to go but we have got to get together. I love playing with him and he loves playing with me. We are both kind of crazy on the field.”
Matthews and Foster have known each other for four years, meeting initially on the basketball court. The two have grown into a pair of the most coveted defenders in the state of Georgia for 2013. This past week at the Rising Seniors Bowl, the two were inseparable, driving each other on the field and talking recruiting off of it.
“He is hungry just like I am,” Matthews said. “We are on the same page on every play. We are trying to knock somebody’s head off. Our intensity is the same and I love playing with a boy like that. That dude is a beast. I have never been up close and personal like I was today. Reuben completely knocked somebody off of his feet. Picked him up and slammed him. My heart just started pumping fast, my adrenaline just started running.”
During the bowl game practices, the pair pushed each other constantly. After a number of hard hits, the Rising Seniors coaching staff elected to forego full pads for the remainder of the week.
“Well at first, Reuben met a guy in the hole and knocked him out,” Matthews said. “He said, ‘Let’s go Tray!’ and I said alright. The next thing you know they threw a post and I wiped the boy off of his feet. On the next play, they went to the outside and Reuben kind of locked up on the runner and let him go -- I wiped him out too. Then on another play they threw an out-route and as soon as the dude caught it and turned around, I power-cleaned him. Me and Rueben were hyped.
“The coach told me and Reuben to calm down a little bit, but it is hard for me to clam down. I love contact.”
That love of contact helped Matthews effectively win the Rising Seniors game for the West squad with a kickoff return for a touchdown that put his team ahead 21-14 and later a blocked PAT that would have tied the game.
"When I knew they scored the touchdown, I had to do something extra, so I told Brandon [Facyson] to move out of the way so I could block the extra point,” Matthews said.
Foster would leave the game after suffering concussion-like symptoms according to one of the West team’s trainers. He spent the rest of the game watching and cheering on his teammates, especially Matthews.
“We are going to play together,” Foster said. “I am going to get him to Alabama and then get Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) too.”
With both athletes having committed to different schools but determined to play together, something has to give.
“He does have an interest in Georgia,” Matthews said. “He visited the other day and he told me he is thinking about Georgia. To be honest we are basically going to judge off of our senior seasons and when we do our official visits next year.”
So what are the Georgia coaches telling Matthews in light of his potential switch?
“Stay true to what you believe in and stay true to what school you want to go to,” Matthews said. “They really know I love Georgia so they aren’t even worried about that. They check up on my every once in a while. I call Mark Richt every once in a while. It’s still good.”
With Signing Day for the 2013 class over a year away, nothing is settled with Matthews and Foster. Nor can it be said that only Georgia and Alabama are battling for the two defenders.
“LSU is coming after me hard,” Matthews said. “Their system is one I like with man coverage and blitzes. And their safety is most likely going to go pro too. I am definitely going to go over there next year and see what it is like.”
No word yet if he would take Foster with him.