Blame coach Mike Norvell. He’s the one who started it.
It began during the Seminoles’ exit interviews in the spring of 2022, before Travis had established himself as one of the country’s most exciting players. The ‘Noles were 7-7 in his 14 career starts.
Norvell had watched Travis go through a strong spring and thought his quarterback was ready for a jolt of confidence. So he gave him one. Norvell told Travis to walk out of their meeting, head to the lobby and gaze at the three Heismans earned by quarterbacks Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke and Jameis Winston.
“I believe you can win one,” Norvell told Travis.
“That’s a bold statement,” Norvell said Wednesday during the ACC’s football kickoff at The Westin Charlotte. “But I believe in him.”
Not everyone did — including, at times, Travis.
There were moments along the way when Travis said his confidence sagged, when others made him doubt himself. He went back and watched high school film to remind himself of who he was and how far he had come. He still does before every game.
Norvell and his staff regained and reinforced Travis’ belief in himself, which crystallized in Gainesville in 2021. He hurt his shoulder early in the game, took a numbing shot and returned. FSU lost by three to end a 5-7 season, but Travis gave his team a chance to win.
“Fighting through an injury, seeing my teammates needed me, were looking to me for help — I just feel like that was the time it clicked for me,” Travis said. “I have guys that depend on me and love me and care for me.”
The relationships grew that offseason as Travis blossomed in practice, leading Norvell to send him into summer with visions of a Heisman. It didn’t happen last year, but he did well enough to earn consideration as the breakout performer in FSU’s long-awaited breakthrough season.
Travis’ 8.35 yards per play ranked fourth in the country, his 160.11 passing efficiency was 15th, and he graded out better than any quarterback in the country by Pro Football Focus. The 32 touchdowns he accounted for (24 passing, 7 rushing, 1 receiving) were tied for the third most in program history.
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Yet those lofty numbers do not entirely do him justice. His Houdini-like escapes were the difference in FSU’s thrilling win over the Gators and are a major reason why the Seminoles have legitimate playoff aspirations.
Norvell saw it coming.
“There’s nothing that he’s done that has shocked me,” Norvell said. “Nothing. I think he’s still just scratching the surface to where he’s going, which excites me.”
As good as Travis was last year, Norvell called him one of FSU’s most improved players this spring.
Travis said he’s stronger, faster and more accurate. He’s more experienced in the system, which allows him to finetune the little things that will be the difference between beating LSU and Clemson or falling short of the program’s championship expectations.
The pieces around Travis are better, too. Almost every major offensive contributor is back, including leading receiver Johnny Wilson, leading rusher Trey Benson and four starters on the offensive line. Another top-tier transfer class included versatile tight end Jaheim Bell (South Carolina) and one of the Big Ten’s top receivers, Keon Coleman (Michigan State). That’s a cast that can support a Heisman campaign.
Not that Travis wants to hear about it.
“Coach Norvell knows I looked at that Heisman and probably walked right past it, man,” Travis said. “That’s not what I’m worried about.”
Instead, he’s worried about the wins, losses and a potential playoff run. Though Travis maintains that his focus is on the team, the ‘Noles won’t get where he wants them to go without another dazzling season from their star quarterback — one that could end in Norvell’s prediction coming through.
“I did want him to hear from me where I thought he could go,” Norvell said. “He’s proven me right.”
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