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Embodying the Climb: Jordan Travis’ impact on FSU football

Reflecting on the career of Jordan Travis

FSU quarterback Jordan Travis
Peyton Baker | @bakerphotos_

It’s been almost five years since quarterback Jordan Travis announced his decision to transfer from the Louisville Cardinals to the Florida State Seminoles. As noted by many, the decision arrived with insecurity for Travis. After his stint with Bobby Petrino and the Cardinals, Travis had lost confidence in his abilities, his football knowledge, and his arm. He questioned if a position change was in his future and was engulfed in uncertainty.

Nearly four years ago, the Florida State football program hired Mike Norvell. The newly named head coach arrived with a message, a way of life he demanded from his team. The direction was to C.L.I.M.B. — a motto to shape the lives of the young men in the Florida State program. It stood for Commitment, Little Things, Intensity, Mental Toughness, Brotherhood. The mantra wasn’t a suggestion, it was call for dedication.

Two paths merging from opposite origins, on a collision course that would reshape a program. Over the next four years, Jordan Travis would grow from a struggling athlete into the face of a resurgent program. With every new obstacle, Travis would overcome and ascend the next step of his growth.

In the shortened 2020 season, Travis started the season behind James Blackman before eventually overtaking the starting role. Travis would have lows which included blowout losses to Louisville and Pittsburgh; but there were also glimpses of the potential he possessed when he led the Seminoles to a win over a ranked North Carolina team. Covid hindered the opportunities of the program in many ways but granted Travis to obtain necessary experience without the massive spotlight. A chance to learn on the job without the lofty expectations… expectations that were lurking on the horizon.

Travis had seized the starting role in 2020, but heading into the 2021 season, the offseason battle between Travis and UCF transfer McKenzie Milton was the biggest storyline for Florida State. Milton, recovering from a devastating leg injury, was the feel good story that was just looking for the Hollywood ending. And so in the opening tilt against Notre Dame, after Travis had tossed three interceptions and Milton had led the Seminoles to a near upset in overtime, it seemed as if one script had found its leading man while Travis was once again cast to the side.

In an ESPN article from earlier this year, Travis reflected on the disappointment of the start of the 2021 season:

“There’s so many different emotions running through your mind,” Travis said. “It sucks. Being a fan of Florida State for so long, going out on the field, it’s like dang you got booed.” The crowd roared when Milton entered the game. When he led Florida State on a furious comeback that forced overtime, it appeared as if Travis might have played his last meaningful snaps at the school he’d grown up rooting for. After the game, he found his father, Tony, and broke down.

“I’m doing everything I can, and they’re booing me,” he told his dad. “What am I playing for?””

The commitment was strained nearly to a breaking point as FSU struggled to start the season 0-4 with Travis seeing minimal snaps. He would once again seize the starting role with a win over Syracuse. Travis led the Seminoles to a 5-3 record over the final portion of the season, showing improvement and leadership, continuing to overcome obstacle after obstacle.

The 2022 season, which saw Travis lead FSU to a 10-3 record, was an astounding success by all accounts, but it did not come without setbacks. But with each setback, Travis adapted and learned from each opportunity. Against Louisville, in the second game of the season, Travis would get injured in the first half. Taking the game in from the sidelines, on crutches, Travis was ecstatic for his teammates and fellow quarterback, Tate Rodemaker, in the comeback win.

During the three game midseason skid, Travis shouldered much of the blame before leading FSU to a six game winning streak to end the season. Travis’ personal growth was in the spotlight in the hard fought regular season finale win over the Florida Gators. Travis would leave it all on the field with physical runs that provided FSU the opportunity to punch in five touchdowns on the ground.

The Seminoles entered the 2023 season with lofty goals. It had been a decade since FSU had been relevant on the national scene. Under the roster construction and coaching of Norvell and his staff, the Seminoles were back. And the face of the program was Jordan Travis. He wasn’t just the leader on the field, but he had become the program ambassador. A frequent occupant of Seminole basketball and softball games, Travis was present at media days and ESPN segments. The kid that had lost all confidence had built himself, with the support of his teammates and coaches, into a Heisman candidate and leader of a playoff contending team.

Jordan Travis picked up a struggling program and carried it on his back to a resurrection. We all saw ourselves in Travis, we experienced each setback and low that FSU had felt over the last five seasons. We heard the ridicule in each failure and elated in each high and finally we were back. Jordan Travis had embodied the Climb and the fans had scaled each step with him.

And suddenly, everything changed Saturday night. Jordan Travis’ devastating injury rippled through the stadium, through the viewers and listeners. There’s pain in the season implications, but more than anything the real grief of the injury is because we knew what Travis had conquered to get to that moment. We saw the growth, we reveled in his improvement, and we applauded his perseverance.

The journey that Jordan Travis experienced saw him ascend personally and launch a once lifeless program back to the spotlight. Whatever happens next in this season will pale in comparison to the healthy recovery we all hope for Travis. We’ll ride the highs and lows but more than anything, we’ll follow intently Travis’ rehabilitation and his next steps in his career and life. Because in the end, we know that Jordan Travis will persevere, he’ll grow and adapt, he’ll climb just as he always has.