The Auburn Tigers are quickly becoming Second Chance University, adding the dismissed Georgia Bulldog Tray Matthews to their squad this week. Whether Matthews can stay an Auburn Tiger will be a question of time and tolerance.
Matthews left Newnan High School in Newnan, Ga. as a highly sought after safety with a penchant for hard hits and game-changing plays. After a contentious recruiting battle, Matthews joined the Bulldogs in 2013 with his sights set upon a starting position. By the time his first spring game rolled around, it was apparent that Matthews was going to be a big part of Bulldogs’ future. He was making plays and even veteran receivers were wary of No. 28 roaming the perimeter.
When Georgia visited Clemson for the first game of the 2013 season, the true freshman Matthews trotted out as the starter at free safety. That was the peak of the Matthews saga in Athens and the fall into the valley was precipitous. He only appeared in eight games and recorded one interception. He nursed an injury most of the season and was known more for his Twitter account and off-field antics than tackles and playmaking. His arrest for check fraud was the final straw and Mark Richt cut him loose rather than continue to abide Matthews’ mischief.
Auburn has benefited from the bad behavior of rival players in the past, especially in the cases of Cam Newton and Nick Marshall. It cannot be argued that a move to Auburn worked out well for them. It is unclear whether Matthews will have that type of impact on the Plains and nobody will know until 2015. After sitting out one season, Matthews will have the chance to redeem himself on the gridiron. Success on the football field seems to create a form of collective amnesia about one’s checkered past.
The only certainty is that Matthews departed Athens in disgrace and he has the chance to restore his good name. Newton and Marshall still endure boos from Florida and Georgia fans who watched them walk away, but most people recall their wins and losses as Auburn Tigers. That is the beauty of second chances, those that get them often step up their game because they know a third chance will not come.