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October 26, 2012
When Carlos Matthews first saw his son, Newnan (Newnan, Ga.) safety Tray Matthews, play football, he knew it was something that came naturally.
He didn't know, however, that Tray would be selected to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"You know, Tray was always so energetic and fun loving that we thought he would like football," Carlos Matthews said. "I didn't see this coming though. I can't say that I thought he would be a big-time prospect like this."
Tray, who committed to Georgia before the start of his junior season, has another way of looking at his first experience on the gridiron, and his first taste of the game sparked something that has only gotten stronger since.
"I just remember that I was nine, and my dad was my coach. He put us in this drill where it was like one on one, and he just told me to stay low and hit the kid that I was going against," Matthews said. "The kid I was going against was 10 years old and had already played a year in full pads, so I just gave it my all when I heard the whistle. When I hit him, I got the best of it and he started crying. I knew football was for me then. I knew I was in love with football."
Matthews' dad says his son's passion for the game makes other players look up to him.
"Tray has always been a bit of a leader. When he hit that kid that day and made him cry, you could see the other kids starting to look up to him and all. He always stayed humble and never bragged about it," Carlos Matthews said. "He also just has so much love for the game and loves working hard to get better at it that other players can see it and look to him for that, too. He is a rare kid in my opinion because he loves the game so much."
Matthews' decision to play in the Army game was an easy one, he said. "Well, first of all, I have an uncle who is in the Army and other family members that are in that branch and other branches like the Navy and some are with the Navy seals and things like that. It is a chance to show my appreciation for them," Matthews said. "But it was also a chance to get away from home and go see some things I've never seen out in Texas. I'm really excited about it to be honest."
And while his family is excited about the Army Bowl, his father also knows that once the game is over in San Antonio, it is time for his son to move to the next phase.
"It's going to be something tough," Carlos Matthews said with a pause. "It's going to be hard. I don't even want to think about it. I know his mom doesn't want to think about it either. As soon as we get back from Texas (In January), he'll be moving in at Georgia and getting started there. It won't be easy because we talk every day about everything. He's a huge part of our lives and we are so proud of him."