AUBURN, Ala. — The No. 1 junior college running back in the nation came to Auburn for Big Cat Weekend, but his Saturday was a little different than the rest of the elite prospects that converged on The Plains.
Octavius Matthews, a Louisville commit, arrived on Auburn’s campus in the shadow of Jordan-Hare Stadium like all of the other invited recruits, but Tigers running back Jovon Robinson was waiting for him.
Instead of the joining the rest of the prospects inside the Auburn athletics complex, Robinson decided to give Matthews a more personal experience.
“As soon as I got here, he basically treated me like a brother,” Matthews said. “He asked me, ‘Do you want to stay here or go with me?’ And he didn’t even give me time to answer. He just said, ‘Come on, you’re going with me. I’m going to show you around.’ He took me back to his dorm and really treated me like a brother.
“Instead of me just seeing (the campus) by myself, I got to see it with him. He showed me his school, and I really liked that. He knows everything around here, so he showed me too.”
Matthews and Robinson have an obvious connection. Matthews, from Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Mississippi, is the No. 1 junior college running back in the Class of 2017. Robinson was also once the No. 1 junior college running back, in the Class of 2015, and after a slow start to his Auburn career, rushed for 619 of his 639 yards in the final six games of the season and could be in line for a huge 2016 campaign.
“We were just talking about that when we were walking around. I asked him if he was the No. 1 and he said yeah,” Matthews said. “Then I asked him if he was No. 1 (overall) in the nation and he said yeah. I told him (recruiting experts) got me at like No. 15 (overall) and he told me not to worry about those numbers because they don’t mean anything. Just do the work on the field.”
Matthews remains committed to Louisville, but Auburn clearly made a strong impression. He did not have an official offer from the Tigers before Saturday, but he does now.
“It got to my heart, man,” Matthews said. “When they said they were offering me, it brought some tears to my eyes.”
Robinson will be a senior in 2016, and the Tigers have lost two running backs in recent months. Peyton Barber declared for the NFL draft despite having two seasons of eligibility left. Roc Thomas, a five-star recruit, decided to transfer last week. The only running back in Auburn’s 2016 recruiting class is three-star prospect Malik Miller.
It certainly seems like there could be an opportunity for playing time in 2017 for Matthews if he follows Robinson’s path to The Plains.
“My recruiting is still open, but I’m still committed to Louisville,” Matthews said. “I’m going to see where it goes. I’m going to talk to my coach and talk to family and see what they think about everything.
“Louisville is still my No. 1, but Auburn is my No. 2 now.”