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FSU football star Jordan Travis is having fun again. It shows.

A meeting with Mike Norvell sparked a subtle shift that could bolster his Heisman Trophy case.
 
Florida State football star Jordan Travis tried to have fun in No. 4 FSU's game against Duke. Mission accomplished.
Florida State football star Jordan Travis tried to have fun in No. 4 FSU's game against Duke. Mission accomplished. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published Oct. 24, 2023|Updated Oct. 25, 2023

TALLAHASSEE — If Florida State football star Jordan Travis looked different to you during Saturday’s comeback win over top-20 Duke, it’s because the Seminoles quarterback was different.

And that’s because of a meeting Travis had with coach Mike Norvell six days earlier — a midseason check-in in the aftermath of the Syracuse rout.

The subject: having fun again.

“He feels like sometimes I might be pressing — I feel like I have pressure, and I’m trying to do too much,” Travis said after the Duke win.

Some pressure simply comes with the territory because of the position and the program; Norvell has said more than a few times that if you don’t like enormous expectations, then No. 4 FSU isn’t the program for you.

Pressure comes with the territory at Florida State.
Pressure comes with the territory at Florida State. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]

Some of the pressure came from Travis’ mentality. He’s a perfectionist who wants to get every detail right to help his team win.

But some of it was added in other ways. Norvell ended their spring 2022 exit interview by telling Travis to check out FSU’s three Heisman Trophy statues on his way out; Travis had the potential to add a fourth. In January, the ‘Noles launched a website (JTravForHeisman) to promote his candidacy. That individual honor was attainable after the 6-0 start. So, too, were bigger things — like the program’s first College Football Playoff appearance since 2014.

Maybe even its fourth national title.

You don’t have to look too hard to see why Norvell might have been concerned about Travis pressing. On FSU’s second offensive play against Syracuse, Travis pounded the turf after a high/bobbled snap — even though he turned that potential turnover into a successful, 5-yard scramble.

Later in the first quarter, Travis sailed a throw past Jaheim Bell for what looked like a possible touchdown. He clapped four times to himself in apparent frustration. Even after his first touchdown rush, Travis seemed more stoic than ecstatic.

All in a 38-point win that was never in doubt.

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis, at times, seemed to press too much in the Seminoles' rout of Syracuse.
Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis, at times, seemed to press too much in the Seminoles' rout of Syracuse. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]

It’s the type of scenario former Rays manager Joe Maddon famously warned against: Never let the pressure exceed the pleasure.

That means it was no surprise that when Norvell and Travis met the next day to talk about ways to continue improving, Travis’ mentality became part of the conversation.

“I know Jordan puts a lot on himself, and it’s what makes him really good,” Norvell told reporters during Monday’s news conference. “And it also, sometimes that can catch up with you.”

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Norvell viewed his message as a reminder for Travis to “go out there and be you.” Travis took it as encouragement to have fun again.

Either way, you don’t have to look too hard to see how that materialized. Travis slapped at least four teammates’ helmets after his 2-yard touchdown rush gave FSU its first lead of the game. You could see him smile through his facemask after a second-down scramble in the fourth quarter. It felt like a flashback to last year’s win over Florida, when he pumped his fist and pounded his chest during one of the best performances of his career.

More importantly, Travis’ mental approach showed up in the box score. His 62 rushing yards were his most since the Gators game. He missed his first two throws before settling in to hit 27 of his next 34; his completion percentage (75%) tied his best mark of the season.

Jordan Travis rushed for 68 yards in the final 20 minutes of the No. 4 Seminoles' win over Duke.
Jordan Travis rushed for 68 yards in the final 20 minutes of the No. 4 Seminoles' win over Duke. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]

“He had fun out there tonight,” Norvell said after the game, “and it was really enjoyable seeing him lead this football team. When it got tight, when it got tough, he played his best.”

The two parts of Norvell’s statement are related, of course. Travis played free as he scrambled for 68 yards over the final 20 minutes. That allowed him to lead his team to one of its most impressive victories of the season and brought more smiles.

“When you win,” Travis said, “you have fun.”

And if Travis keeps playing like this, there will be a lot more winning —and fun — in his future.

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