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Matt Corral’s leadership, team-first spirit helped Coach Rhule, Panthers know he’s their guy

Matt Corral’s leadership, team-first spirit helped Coach Rhule, Panthers know he’s their guy

Following his selection in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, former Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral discussed the draft with Darin Gantt of Panthers.com and explained why he is so comfortable with his new team.

Carolina head coach Matt Rhule also explained what made him so comfortable picking Corral.

It could not have been easy for Matt, present in Las Vegas for the first round of the NFL Draft, to wait and not hear his name called Thursday night. It took until the 94th overall pick in the third round for the California native to be chosen — a long way away from where many thought he would come off the board.

But in typical Corral fashion — classy and honest — he congratulated everyone who was drafted in the first round and thanked the NFL for inviting him.

That honesty is a big part of what led Carolina to draft Matt.

After he was picked, Corral told Darin Gantt the relationships he made with the Carolina staff were reassuring to him, specifically mentioning an exchange he had with Panthers’ offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.

“I was a fan of coach McAdoo when I finally got to meet him and spend time with him when we were eating lunch,” Corral told Gantt from his hotel in Las Vegas.

I’m excited to get back to Carolina and start to work. Really, because I was nervous at first, and he noticed that, and called me out on it. Then there was a comfort there. Him understanding I was already nervous and calling me out on it was kind of comforting. He knew it. I felt like it was a place I’d end up for sure.

Matt Corral on meeting Carolina OC Ben McAdoo (interview with Darin Gantt)

Matt tells Gantt he felt even more comfortable with the Panthers after meeting with head coach Matt Rhule, GM Scott Fitterer, and owner David Tepper.

“Mr. Tepper as well. Just talking about life, and his experience and my experience, and really just chopping it up that way, getting real personal,” Corral said of his meeting with the owner.

We were just talking, and they were getting to know me more. That’s when I got to talking with Mr. Tepper, and I got to like him a lot, because I felt comfortable with him.

Matt Corral on meeting with Panthers’ owner David Tepper

Making the move for Corral

Carolina needed to trade up in order to get Corral. The Panthers gave next year’s third-round pick and this year’s fourth-round pick to New England, moving Carolina up to the 94th spot where they could select the former Ole Miss QB.

In a pick that surely must make Corral smile, the Panthers used their first-round pick on left tackle Ickey Ekwonu who will be protecting his blind side.

Corral’s Character at Pro Day seals the deal for Carolina

There were those who debated Corral’s performance on the field at Ole Miss Pro Day, but the truth is that Corral being himself, willing to do anything for his teammates, truly caught the attention of the Panthers.

According to Gantt, Rhule spoke of something he observed from Corral’s pro day that told him a great deal about the California native’s character.

Television programming had bumped back Corral’s normal throwing time. The Rebels’ running backs needed someone to throw to them, and their quarterback didn’t hesitate to immediately come to their aid. “He jumped right in,” writes Gantt, “without considering it was an audition for every team in the league there to see his workout rather than theirs.”

“There was some confusion and they needed him to throw to the running backs,” Rhule recalled.

Here is this kid getting ready, coming off of a foot injury; he has been throwing for about a week. He is trying to save his arm. His teammates, his running backs, need him to throw drills to them. He goes over and starts throwing. Even some of us were like, ‘What is he doing? Poor kid.’ His trainer is like, ‘Don’t throw, don’t throw,’ and he is like, ‘No, I’m going to throw to my guys.‘”

Carolina head coach Matt Rhule on Matt Corral

Sugar Bowl: Matt puts his team first

While many of those experts who have been critiquing Corral were the same ones questioning his decision to play in the Sugar Bowl and not opt out due to injury concern, the young man’s decision to play showed the Panthers who he is as a leader.

And, ironically, Corral’s injury also showed what he meant to his team.

I think you can go back to the bowl game and you watch when he gets hurt, and you watch every single guy on that field when he comes back out onto the field. I’m talking about trainers, I’m talking about running backs, I’m talking about D-linemen, they all come over to him. One of the benefits in my life is when I go into some of these schools, there are kids that I recruited. I sat in their houses, I talked to them. I had a chance to talk to them, and I had the chance at Ole Miss to talk to some kids that I recruited, and there is not one of them that wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, your whole team is going to love him.’

Matt Rhule on Corral

Rhule obviously understands the critical importance of leadership at the quarterback position, and in Corral he knows he’s found a player who would run through a brick wall for his teammates — and, just as importantly, vice versa.

That’s a big part of this position. There is a lot of stress. There is a lot of pressure. There are a lot of accolades. Every guy on the team has to believe the quarterback wants to put them first. He did that at Ole Miss. He did that in small ways at pro day, throwing to the running backs. But you see how much love those guys pour out to him. We are going to bring him along slow. We are going to train him from the ground up. He has a lot to learn. He has a lot to do. But I am unbelievably fired up to get Ickey yesterday and have him show up today and then Matt Corral today.

Ole Miss fans know what an outstanding young man the Panthers are getting and the leadership he will bring to the table.

Corral spoke with Panthers team reporter Kristen Balboni about what it was like to get the call.

Congratulations to Matt and to the Panthers! 

Evelyn Van Pelt
Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn’s love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.

About The Author

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn's love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.

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