- Radi Nabulsi, Reporter, DawgNation
ESPN 150 safety Tray Matthews (Newnan, Ga./Newnan) has spent more than a year cajoling, urging and teasing inside linebacker Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) into joining him at the University of Georgia, where Matthews will soon enroll.
Foster has done the same, trying to get Matthews to join him at Alabama and then later Auburn. The two have made pacts, traded clothes and hosted each other on multiple trips. But now that Foster has decommitted from Auburn, all of the exhorting and prodding has stopped as Matthews steps in to help out his best friend.
“He just needs a friend right now, not just someone to talk recruiting with,” Matthews said. “So we are not even talking about that. He is frustrated and this is very stressful. Reuben said it is just wrong and there is a lot going on right now.”
Foster is the top inside linebacker in the nation and his recruitment has involved two commitments, two decommitments, changing high schools, a large Auburn University logo tattoo and now a coaching change. The sheer number of headlines has made Foster the target of much derision on message boards and social media. Through it all Foster has been generally upbeat in public, but behind the scenes he has been hurting.
“I do not think Reuben is in this for drama,” Matthews said. “He is a highly-rated athlete, so every little thing he does is blown up. He left a situation at Troup where his father figure left, and he was hurt. He came to Auburn and Trooper Taylor became his father figure, so now with Taylor gone he is hurting again. He tells me that people just do not understand about his father situation and him not having anyone to go to.”
A number of coaches have offered to fill that role for Foster but even the conversations about that “sound like recruiting pitches to him” according to Matthews. Foster trusts Taylor who was recently released by Auburn’s new head coach Gus Malzahn. The four-star linebacker has said that he will follow Taylor wherever the former wide receivers coach is hired. Foster also plans visits to LSU, Washington, Miami and yet another trip to Georgia.
“We were talking last night and Trooper Taylor was telling him what he expected to happen,” Mathews said. “He told Reuben he was not going to be coming back. Trooper wanted to talk to me, too, but I did not want to talk to him.”
Matthews declined to talk with Taylor not out of loyalty to Georgia but rather exhaustion. With the coaching situation at Auburn in flux these past few weeks and the recruitment of Foster at a fever pitch, Matthews’ phone rings non-stop.
“It is kind of tiresome with everyone coming to me thinking I am the key to this,” Matthews said.
For his part, there is no drama in Matthews’ recruitment. He is solidly committed to Georgia and will enroll at the school later this month. Mark Richt was supposed to have an in-home visit with Matthews on Thursday, but had to reschedule due to a Capital One Bowl news conference.
“He expected to be going all the way, to Miami, so he would have had time Thursday,” Matthews said. “But we changed it to Tuesday. Coach Richt is coming to my school, to my mom’s job and showing him around to my teachers, coaches, players and friends. Then he is going to come over to my house and chill, eat, watch TV. and chill with my friends before going out to dinner.”
Matthew said they might even play video games like NCAA football.
“We are going to replay that Alabama-Georgia game,” Matthews said. “We’ll be on the same side.”
That is something with which Matthews is quite familiar.
5dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
5dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information