Tray Matthews has matured since his UGA days

Tray Matthews is answering questions about his past transgressions.

And there are a lot of them.

The Auburn safety is at the Senior Bowl and being interviewed by personnel from nearly every NFL team. They want to know, before possibly investing millions of dollars, about his dismissal from Georgia after his freshman season and transfer.

“I just tell them that I was an 18-year-old, immature kid at the time,” Matthews said this week before the college football exhibition game. “I’m 22, 23 now. That’s a big, big difference.”

Matthews, of Newnan, started his collegiate career at Georgia. He was kicked off the team in June 2014 after an arrest by UGA police in March. Matthews, along with three other Georgia players, were charged with misdemeanor theft by deception for allegedly double-dipping school-issued financial-aid checks by cashing them twice. He was dismissed June 3 of that year when then-coach Mark Richt was informed that Matthews had an altercation with a professor and was ordered to leave a class. Matthews accepted a pre-trial diversion plea in Athens-Clarke County court later that month on the theft case.

Matthews was ranked as the No. 6 prospect in Georgia and No. 7 safety in the nation by Rivals in 2013. He enrolled early and played eight games as a freshman, making six starts.

But after ending that season with 36 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble, his career with the Bulldogs abruptly ended.

Matthews has been going through the issues in great detail with NFL teams. Looking back at his brief stay in Athens, Matthews contends he was overwhelmed.

“That was just too much coming at me as a true freshman,” Matthews said. “Physical-wise I was mature, but mentally I wasn’t there. A lot of the (NFL) teams understand. That was a mistake. I’ve moved on. That was in the past.”

After sitting out a season, Matthews got his career back on track with Auburn.

He played in 34 games for the Tigers and had 180 tackles, four interceptions, seven passes breakups and two force fumbles.

He’s a middle-of-the-field safety, who must show his range and ability to cover tight ends at the Senior Bowl.

He’s been interviewed by the Falcons and about 19 other NFL teams.

“I just want to prove that I’m very versatile,” Matthews said. “I can play free safety, strong safety and can come down in the box at linebacker and guard some tight ends.

“I’m very comfortable with (covering tight ends). I did some of that in my junior year and senior year as well. I locked down a couple of tight ends. I can play in the box.”

Matthews felt his interview with the Falcons went well.

“They were asking me questions about the schemes I played in,” Matthews said. “I did a lot of board work. I did extremely well on it. I’ve been coached up hard by coach (Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin) Steele.”

Matthews is projected to be drafted in the six or seventh round by NFL Draft Scout. He can improve his situation at the Senior Bowl and with a strong Pro Day workout.

“Tray is a combination safety, a strong safety and free safety,” Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said. “I think one of the questions for him is to see him cover a tight end man-to-man.”

Before the Senior Bowl, Matthews trained with NFL players Eric Berry and Anquan Boldin in Florida.

Matthews was not pleased with how Auburn’s season ended after they beat Georgia and then Alabama and won the SEC West. They were defeated in the SEC Championship game by Georgia and by Central Florida in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

“The last two games, we didn’t have a lot of our best guys out there,” Matthews said. “We went through a big stretch, Georgia, Alabama and then Georgia again, without some of our top players.”