Monson: 24 things to know about Utah QB Travis Wilson
Travis Wilson is about to become one of the biggest names in Utah college football. Kyle Whittingham has tossed the keys to his car into the sophomore quarterback's hands for what might be the most important race of his coaching career. Ute players voted Wilson as a team captain either because they truly believe he is their bona fide frontman or because they desperately want him to be.
But ... here's the thing: Other than the few glimpses people saw of him last season after injuries to and ineffective play by others forced him onto the field as a kind of overwhelmed lurpy, baby-faced freshman with a flowing mane and a quick release, nobody knows nothing about him.
Here, we try to get to know young Mr. Wilson, at least to the extent he allows us in, which has its limits although whether those limits are born of privacy or simply because he's still a teenager who really hasn't given any of it much thought is up to the reader to decide. Certainly, his teammates and coaches think highly of his ability to get them down the field and into the end zone.
Twenty-four tidbits, then, about Travis James Wilson:
1. He's a big, daffy 19-year-old kid, not unlike a floppy pup who is still attempting to figure out who he is, what his potential is, how far this football thing can take him. He's growing into himself as hundreds of thousands of observers watch. Veteran receiver Dres Anderson calls Wilson "a goofy dude who's always messing around, jumping on guys' backs and snapping them with towels." He adds: "You wouldn't think it because he seems quiet, but he's really a hilarious guy, always telling inside jokes."
2. He'll get better as the season moves forward. That's what offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson says: "Last year, he was kind of thrown to the wolves. He was so young. But he's learned a lot about being tough, staying in the pocket, doing the things he has to do to make plays. His knowledge of what we're trying to do is getting better and better. His arm is stronger than it was. He knows when to take stuff off the ball and when to fling it. I see a huge upside. As things go on, he'll improve."
3. His nickname is "Bulldog." Nobody knows exactly why the team gave him that tag, whether it's because he is a big pup, or whatever. "Don't ask me," says tight end Jake Murphy. "I can't explain it. But Travis embraces it."
4. He's popular with his teammates who, as mentioned, voted him as their offensive leader despite his being only a sophomore. "Travis is just a funny, laid-back California kid," Murphy says. "He gets along with everybody. He's easy to be around. He's a gentle giant, except for when he's on the field. I'm married and 24, he's 19, and me and him get along as well as he does with other 19-year-olds. Everyone likes and respects Travis."
5. For being so funny and laid-back, Wilson is a stiff interview. He's not yet comfortable in the public eye. He sometimes gives short responses and declines to answer questions that seem harmless. On the other hand, what were you doing, how polished were you, when you were 19?
6. Wilson wears Led Zeppelin T-shirts and listens to Def Leppard. He's young, but his tastes in music lean toward old-man rock. "I don't have a favorite band," he says, but if he did, it wouldn't be anything from this century.
7. His favorite movie is "Remember the Titans."
8. His favorite non-sports movie is a toss-up between "Ted" and "Dumb and Dumber." He says he likes entertainment that makes him laugh. "I just like having fun."
9. He isn't much for reading books.
10. His favorite actor is Will Ferrell.
11. His favorite comedian is Kevin Hart.
12. He loves the beach. Wilson was born and grew up in San Clemente and his family's home is five minutes from the sand and surf. He enjoys the beach lifestyle, although, he says, "I'm just an average surfer." Although he focused on football since he was 10, he also played volleyball in high school. "I was a middle blocker," he says. "If I hadn't have played football, I would have pursued that out of high school."
13. The NFL team he followed was the San Diego Chargers.
14. His favorite college team, until he joined the Utes, was Notre Dame. He went to a football camp in South Bend and makes a point to say: "It's nice but it definitely doesn't compare to here. I miss the beach but I love the mountains. I love the snow. You get a sense of all four seasons here. I like that. My friend and I go up to Park City to hang out. I like to fish, too."
15. His favorite subject in school is math. Wilson says he's always taken academic matters seriously, mostly because his parents Tim, a vice president of a construction company, and JoMarie, a school teacher at a junior high in San Clemente stressed the importance of solid studies. He's now a sports management major.
16. He likes to golf, although he's not particularly good at it. "I shoot about 90," he says.
17. Consistency is his top goal this season. "I have to do that for us to come out and make statements every week," he says. "Nobody expects anything from us after last season. We expect a lot from ourselves."
18. Despite his rise to big man on campus, Wilson has had the same girlfriend since his junior year of high school. She goes to a school in California. "We're doing the long-distance thing," he says.
19. His favorite food is sushi.
20. He wants to be a vocal leader, although that's not his personality. "I'm trying to talk more," he says. "When they made me captain, it boosted my confidence and made me happy." Anderson says Wilson has shown leadership throughout camp: "He's been playing like a captain. Even when we have a bad day out here, he's confident. He gets everyone together and encourages us to do better."
21. Like the Biblical Sampson, he likes his hair long. "I cut it before, but I like it better long," he says. "I'm growing it out because it fits me."
22. His biggest thrill of playing college football so far is the rush he gets coming out of the tunnel before night games, in particular, at Rice-Eccles.
23. The single thing he wants Utah fans to know right now is that he's their guy. "I'm the starter and I'm ready," he says. "I'll be ready for that first game."
24. The most important part of his life is his family. Wilson has an older brother and a younger sister. He says his parents "raised me right," and he remembers that and is grateful. He says if he had a free day to do whatever he wanted anywhere in the world, he would pick to go home, gather everybody around the table for a family dinner, and relax: "I'd just sit around with them and hang out for a while."
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.