By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Tray Matthews was talking about playing with a torn labrum in one of his shoulders last year, his off-season surgery — and then he spilled the beans.
"I had two torn labrums, and I bet y'all didn’t even know I had both surgeries."
The Auburn defensive back had both shoulders fixed in the offseason, missed spring practice while recuperating and now says he's been good as new in preseason camp this week. He's ready to show Auburn fans the big hitter he says he is after being cautious with his banged-up shoulders last season.
"It's just a great feeling, a humbling feeling. And I just thank God and Dr. Andrews for getting me back on that field 100 percent."
Matthews patiently waited to make an impact last season after he transferred from Georgia and sitting out a year. He intercepted Louisville's first pass in last year's opener — then he got hurt.
"I think everyone remembers the first game, actually, which was a tragedy for me."
He made a tackle and a player fell on his arm "and it snapped all the way back."
"I tore my labrum, so I had to play with a torn labrum the whole season. I really couldn’t hit like I wanted to. But I tried to make the best out of it.
"It was real tough. It was heartbreaking for me and my family, because they knew exactly what was wrong."
Matthews said was already playing with a torn labrum in the other shoulder, an injury he said he "just never got it fixed." Still, he played in 10 games and made 46 tackles, ninth best on the team. He's the fourth-leading tackler returning from last season.
One of his first tests for his shoulders came Friday.
"We had shoulder pads on and we were hitting a little bit, and it felt real good."
Matthews said that was big "because I wanted to get that feeling back. Just make sure I’m not timid or anything. I got a few good hits." One came against Kamryn Pettway.
"That's one of the bigger running backs, so if I can hit him and it didn't hurt, I know I'll be ready to go."
So will the rest of the defense, Matthews said, under the orders of new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
"He’s pushing us, making us fly around to the ball. And if we don’t fly around, we get punished. His expectations are high, and we’re trying to meet them every day."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine