Matthews says he will return to Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — By the time Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan

Matthews graduates, he’ll have a chance to rewrite the record books at

his school and in the Southeastern Conference.

But what he really wants is a SEC championship for the Commodores.

By

returning for his senior season instead of leaving early for the NFL

draft, Matthews believes Vanderbilt can win its first league title.

“I

know for a fact I have the guys around me that can take this school to

an SEC championship next year,” Matthews said Sunday. “That is the main

reason why I’m staying, and I’m going to devote all my time to making

sure Vanderbilt is on the podium in Georgia by season’s end next year.”

Joined

by his parents Roderick and Brenda as well as Vanderbilt coach James

Franklin, Matthews announced his decision to stay just six days after

the Commodores (9-4) wrapped up their first nine-win season since 1915

with a 38-24 victory over North Carolina State in the Music City Bowl.

“I

felt like I could have (been) drafted really high and really helped out

an NFL team, but we’ll just wait another year to do that,” Matthews

said.

He led the SEC this season with a school-record 1,323

receiving yards, the fifth-highest total in league history. The

6-foot-3, 205-pounder had 94 catches, the second-most in school and SEC

history.

Matthews, a distant cousin of Jerry Rice, also has 10

career games with 100 receiving yards or more, including a school-record

seven this season.

In three years, the all-SEC selection has 150 receptions for 2,282 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Matthews

needs 812 yards to capture the SEC’s all-time receiving record. With

another monster season, he could surpass former Vanderbilt standout and

current Chicago Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett for most career

receptions (236) in league history.

“This is the biggest recruit

that we’re signing this year, getting this guy to come back,” Franklin

said. “I don’t think there is any question that Jordan was ready to make

this move (to the NFL) physically and mentally. He made a really mature

decision. … He wants to continue his opportunity, refine his craft,

have an opportunity to earn his degree and then take his talents to the

next level.”

Matthews plans to graduate next December, so he can

begin training immediately for the 2014 NFL draft. According to

Franklin, Matthews will take out an insurance policy in case of injury.

Matthews said the chance of a season-ending or career-threatening

injury, like the one that occurred to South Carolina running back Marcus

Lattimore, didn’t weigh heavily on his mind.

“You can get hit by a bus walking outside,” Matthews said. “You don’t worry about that stuff, man.”

Nor is he concerned with his production decreasing because of a new quarterback.

Jordan

Rodgers will be gone, leaving either rising senior Austyn Carta-Samuels

or redshirt freshman Patton Robinette to take over.

“Relationships

are built. They don’t just happen,” Matthews said. “We are going to be

throwing every single day to the point we get the relationship together

the same way me and Jordan had it. So I don’t think we’re going to miss a

beat at all.”