December 29, 2011

'Proud to be a Bulldog'

ATLANTA- Newnan defensive back Tray Matthews chose to get the recruiting process over early when he committed to the University of Georgia in August of his junior year.

Although the recruiting process is over for the star junior, he will be the first to admit that his development as a player is just beginning.

Matthews is one of the most well known players are the Rising Seniors Bowl in Atlanta this week, and the Peach State star is taking every opportunity to get better.

"I'm happy to be here and competing with the best guys in the state," he said. "Playing beside guys like Reuben Foster is a great opportunity because it is going to make me better. Practicing here and competing is going to make me better."

The Newnan standout had an outstanding junior season with 84 tackles and four interceptions, and he did all of that as teams avoided him all year long.

While some recruits may take it down a notch after locking down a spot with their favorite school, Matthews believes that his early commitment had the opposite effect.

"I had a successful junior season, and I think a lot of it was because I was already committed to Georgia," he said. "It made me work that much harder and strive that much harder because I wanted them to know that it was a Georgia guy making the plays."

During the Rising Senior practices for the West squad, coaches were heard on multiple occasions asking Matthews to tone it down a bit and back off from his physical play, but it never deterred the big-hitting safety.

"Every since I was in little league, I've had people telling me to take it down a notch and stuff like that," said Matthews. "I know what they mean, but it's just not me. My dad has always taught me to give it all I have and that is the way I do it."

Even as a junior, Matthews is a candidate to be a starter in 2013 for his future team, and he already has some things he knows he'll need to work on.

"I really need to work on my angles," he said. "I need to just take better angles in coverage and against the run. I work really hard with my dad. We lift and do speed work, so I know that will be there. But I just need to watch film and get better with my angles."

Immediately after committing in August, Georgia lost its first two games of the season against South Carolina and Boise State.

Matthews will be the first to admit that the two losses weren't easy to swallow, and doubters were easy to find.

At no point, however, did the 2013 UGA commit waiver.

"Man, I'm so proud to be a Bulldog, man," he said. "When Georgia started off losing those two games, people were saying 'Georgia is going to suck this year, Tray, You better find somewhere else.' But I kept telling them that they would see. I knew we would bounce back and then we won 10 in a row. It was great to see."

When a high-profile player commits so early, fans are always worried that he might have second thoughts.

Matthews' message to Bulldog Nation is simple and firm.

"I'm a Georgia Bulldog. Nothing is going to change that," he said.

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