From the second Damarius Travis stepped foot on the University of Minnesota camps during the summer of 2012 the word used to describe him was potential, and it was often underlined and highlighted. Even though Travis was a lightly recruited safety out of Pensacola (Fla.), his only offers coming from Minnesota, Florida International and Western Michigan, it was clear the Gophers had a gem.
The only question was whether or not Gopher secondary coach Jay Sawvel, now the defensive coordinator, could take Travis’ NFL measurements and develop all that potential into productivity.
Travis was too talented to redshirt during his first season at Minnesota. Although he didn’t do too much on the field, the staff knew of his talent and realized he was needed during his first year to help with depth, but most importantly get a feel for the Big Ten. He finished the season with only eight tackles, while playing in all 13 games. In his second season it was more of the same. Again playing in all 13 games, Travis did nothing spectacular and the only stats credited his way were 28 tackles and four pass breakups.
The switch began to flip during his junior season in 2014. Travis started seven of 13 games and made 61 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, five pass breakups, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one recovered fumble.
The potential was now turning into productivity and NFL scouts were noticing. Travis was poised for a huge senior season and got off to a huge start in the season opener against nationally ranked TCU. Travis finished the game with 10 tackles against the Horned Frogs and was all over the field making plays. However, in the process, Travis shredded his hamstring and it proved to be an injury that would take all season to fully heal.
It ended up being a good news bad news scenario for the Gophers and for Travis. The decision was made late in the season that Travis would sit out the remainder of the season and take a medical redshirt.
Travis now enters the 2016 season fully prepared to lead the Gopher secondary and in turn help lead the Gopher defense and solidify himself as an NFL prospect. Having Travis back in the fold is very important for the Gophers as it gives them another playmaker up the middle of their defense. With Steven Richardson and Merrick Jackson manning the middle of the line, Cody Poock and Jack Lynn at linebacker and Travis roaming in the secondary, the Gophers have to be confident in their defense up the middle.
Next season it is clear to me that Travis will be cashing NFL paychecks. I think he is just too good of an athlete and has the size and speed scouts covet. I put Travis on his best season in Maroon and Gold and career highs in every category. Look for Travis to finish with 75 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, four interceptions and four forced fumbles.
Top 15 MIG Countdown
15. Isaiah Gentry
14. Cody Poock
13. Julian Huff
12. Drew Wolitarsky
11. Rodney Smith
10. Merrick Jackson
9. Jonah Pirsig
7. Jalen Myrick
6. Tyler Moore
4. Jack Lynn