Sugar Bowl 2022: Corral never considered opting out

Published 5:34 pm Saturday, January 1, 2022

By Jake Davis

The Oxford Eagle

Matt Corral never considered opting out.

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The Ole Miss quarterback announced he would play in the Rebels’ bowl game immediately after defeating Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl back on Thanksgiving, bucking the trend of NFL prospects opting to prepare for the draft rather than participate in their school’s bowl game.


“I never questioned it just because one, I wanted to play and two… if I was them, in their shoes and they had a quarterback that was in the same position… I just couldn’t live with what they would think of me just leaving,” said Corral.


Head coach Lane Kiffin said Corral’s decision to opt-in early influenced other players to follow his lead.


“I think when your quarterback would be the most obvious opt-out, never even thinks about it and the players know that and he’s played through injuries when he could have not played in games, I think it starts at the top,” Kiffin said.


Teammates were not surprised by Corral’s decision, saying it speaks to who he is as a person and a competitor.


“I think everyone expected him to do that,” said linebacker Chance Campbell. “That’s kinda the player he’s been, kinda the leader he’s been.”


“I didn’t even think he was gonna opt out. I don’t think [anyone] did,” said defensive end Sam Williams. “We have a brotherhood here, I couldn’t imagine him just up and leaving. That’s not the person he is.”


This Ole Miss team emphasized the family culture and atmosphere throughout the season, pointing to it as a major factor in the program’s quick turnaround under Kiffin.


“No one really knows how close we really are, it just would’ve been the wrong thing to do, just not playing and holding out on them,” Corral said.


Corral says the idea of opting out never occurred to him, but that his trainer advised him to consider it in order to avoid any potential injuries and secure a spot in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft.


“That’s the only person that made me think about it, but I couldn’t do it,” Corral said.


Baylor head coach Dave Aranda admires the way Corral approaches the game, saying his decision to opt-in speaks to his leadership and dedication.


“When I look at Matt Corral, I just see a competitor. I see a winner. I see someone who wills his team. In today’s age, a guy of his caliber staying with it and playing in this game, I think, it speaks a lot,” Aranda said.


Corral is expected to be the first quarterback taken in the NFL draft after a stellar year in Oxford, leading the Rebels to an historic season and proving himself as one of the premiere signal-callers in college football.


His rapid development at Ole Miss inspired teammates and helped establish a culture of winning at a program that had not made a postseason appearance since 2015.


“Just watching Matt come in as a freshman, he took his game to a whole other level this year,” said wide receiver Braylon Sanders. “These past two years, him being the starting quarterback, it’s just been great seeing him achieve all his goals and put the team on his back and carry us like he did.”


Corral’s career at Ole Miss comes to a close tonight against Baylor, but his legacy will live on in Oxford for decades.