In a time when so many college athletes are eager to reach the next level, Matt Corral stayed. He’s a future first-round draft pick and could have easily decided to opt-out of his last game in a Rebel uniform, but to him, it was bigger than that.
“If I was them (Ole Miss teammates), in their shoes and they had a quarterback in the same position … I just couldn’t live with what they would think of me like just leaving and just being like ‘alright that was the last game’ and nobody knowing that was the last game,” Corral said. “The only reason why I say this is because no one really understands how close we really are. It just would’ve been the wrong thing to do, just not playing and just holding out on them.”
The junior quarterback from Ventura, California, didn’t have the same recruitment path that so many others have had. He played at a prominent high school before leaving his senior season due to an alleged altercation with another student at his school. Corral was committed to the University of Southern California at the time, but the school pulled his offer after news of the altercation broke.
As fate would have it, he ended up at Ole Miss in 2018. Matt Corral’s first game in a Rebel uniform resulted in the infamous fight in the 2018 Egg Bowl. His immaturity showed in that game and continued to give the critics a reason to doubt his ability to be a different kind of player.
The following year in the 2019 season, Corral suffered a minor injury early on in the season. His backup quarterback, John Rhys Plumlee, took over under center, and Corral struggled to earn his starting job back. That year’s team finished 4-8 and ultimately head coach Matt Luke was fired. Current head coach Lane Kiffin was brought in shortly after and helped change the trajectory of Matt Corral’s tenure at Ole Miss. In only a season, Corral was able to become one of the best quarterbacks in Ole Miss history and in the country.
Senior wide receiver Braylon Sanders was asked about Matt Corral’s transformation. “Just watching Matt come in as a freshman, he took his game to a whole new level,” Sanders said. “It’s been great seeing him achieve all his goals and put the team on his back and carry us like he did.”
In the past two seasons, QB1 has proved what it truly means to be a leader on and off the field. He earned the respect of every single one of his teammates and was able to lead them to their first 10-win season in program history, and then lead them to the Sugar Bowl.
“He’s been unbelievable in things you don’t see … had a cool moment this morning in the team meeting and listened to him talk,” head coach Lane Kiffin said of Corral. “What he said today to the team … he’s just real special and will make a great NFL player.”
This once-in-a-generation quarterback won the hearts of so many, but even in his final moments in a Rebel football uniform, he continued to show just how special he truly is.
Corral suffered an injury in this year’s Sugar Bowl after a Baylor defender fell on top of his ankle. The crowd went silent as he lay on the ground getting medical care. He left the field to get X-rays and instead of staying in the locker room, Corral returned on crutches to support his team in his final game.
In the press conference after the game, the majority of the players reflected on Corral and what he meant to the program. Running back Jerrion Ealy was asked how Corral acted when he returned to the field after his injury.
“He was helping Luke (Altmyer, the backup quarterback) go through his progressions, doing what he does,” Ealy said. “No matter if he’s out there or not, he’s going to give us that extra boost to try and go out to play to the best of our abilities. It was painful to watch (his injury). To see our general on the ground like that, in agony and pain. It was devastating, but we still had a game to play.”
While Corral’s time in Oxford and at Ole Miss comes to a close, the impact that he has left will last generations.
“I really mean it when I say this team means something to me,” Corral said. “The other leaders and I formed a bond on this team that came together when times were tough. When nobody was clapping for us, we were the ones holding it together. The love on this team was and is unmatched. It’s something that I will forever remember.”
Thank you, number 2.