Reliving Jordan Travis’ Road to Becoming FSU’s Starting QB

Photo courtesy of Florida State athletics

Confidence is defined as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.”

Florida State redshirt junior quarterback Jordan Travis’s confidence is on full display this offseason. However, it has not been an easy journey for Travis since transferring from Louisville following the 2018 season.

During that season with the Cardinals, it seemed as though the collegiate game was happening too quickly for Travis. Travis completed just four of his 14 passes for 71 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception. However, he seemed to have some success when utilizing his legs. In his lone season at Louisville, Travis tallied 40 rushing yards on just eight carries.

Coming into the 2019 season, Florida State was faced with major question marks at the quarterback position. Deondre Francois was mulling over his options on whether to graduate or go play professionally. Longtime quarterback commit Sam Howell flipped his commitment from Florida State to North Carolina.

That left redshirt freshman quarterback James Blackman as the only quarterback on its roster. Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook eventually transferred to FSU.

Transferring to FSU

Travis was no stranger to how life was at Florida State. His older brother, Devon Travis, was a second baseman for the FSU baseball team from 2010 to 2012. On Dec. 27, 2018, the North Palm Beach native ultimately chose to transfer to Florida State. It was not an easy trek for the talented playmaking quarterback early on.

Travis didn’t see a single snap over the first nine games of 2019. The Seminoles had a 4-5 record and had lost three of their last four contests by an average of 16.7 points as they prepared for their ACC finale. Blackman and Hornibrook combined to complete 209 of their 317 passes for 2,239 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Many began to wonder if Travis was ever going to make an appearance in an FSU uniform.

The Beginning of Something Special

On Nov. 9, Travis finally got his chance. FSU traveled to Chestnut Hill, Mass. to take on 5-4 Boston College. The Seminoles limped into Alumni Stadium after just firing head coach Willie Taggart.

The season was slipping away as FSU trailed 14-3 early and by four at halftime. FSU needed to win if it had any hopes of becoming bowl eligible. With 12:24 left to go in the third quarter, the Seminoles were faced with a 3rd-and-3 from the Boston College 26-yard-line.

Enter Travis.

Lined up in shotgun formation with running Cam Akers to his left, Travis faked the handoff on the read option. Travis evaded one defender and made his way down the sideline for a 26-yard touchdown. But Travis wasn’t done there.

As the Seminoles were faced with 3rd-and-9 situation, FSU led 31-24 with 1:14 remaining. Boston College had a timeout and was one play from getting the ball back with a chance to tie the game. However, the talented playmaking ability of Travis broke the hearts of Boston College fans at Alumni Stadium once again.

On a similar play call to his first touchdown, Travis raced 66 yards for a touchdown that essentially put the contest away. FSU won 38-31 and ultimately beat Alabama State the following week to become bowl eligible.

Doubt Sets In

Entering the 2020 season, many wondered if Travis had tools to become a successful passer. In 2019, Travis went just 6-for-11 passing for 79 yards and no touchdowns. He was primarily utilized as a runner. He finished the year with 23 carries for 228 yards and three touchdowns.

Coming into fall camp before the 2020 season, Travis dealt with nagging injuries which held him out of practice. The staff ultimately chose to ride with Blackman, a redshirt junior, in the season opener against Georgia Tech.

Blackman struggled against the Yellow Jackets as FSU suffered a debilitating 16-13 loss. Against Miami the following week, Blackman struggled again as the Seminoles were embarrassed by their rivals, 52-10.

At 0-2, first-year head football coach Mike Norvell was facing a difficult situation. In an effort to breathe life into a struggling offense, Norvell ultimately decided to start true freshman quarterback Tate Rodemaker in the next contest against Jacksonville State. With Rodemaker at the helm, the struggles continued as he threw for just 58 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown.

Trailing 14-0, Travis entered the game with 10:34 left in the second quarter. The result would be five straight touchdown drives as FSU rallied to beat its FCS foe, 41-24. Travis asserted himself as the team’s starter for the remainder of the season.

FSU finished just 3-6, but the Seminoles were a different team with the South Florida native behind center. That was especially true in a 31-28 upset of No. 5 North Carolina.

In Comes McKenzie Milton

Fast forward to the 2021 season and it seemed as though the redshirt sophomore was finally finding an identity in Florida State’s offensive system. Rather than allow Travis to take the reins, however, FSU used the transfer portal to bring in an established competitor.

Former UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton had once finished in the top 10 for the Heisman Trophy after leading the Knights to a perfect 2017 season. Milton suffered a devastating right knee injury in 2018 and hadn’t play in a collegiate game since. It was most certainly a risk for the Seminoles’ coaching staff to bring Milton in to compete with Travis given the injury history.

The staff was hopeful that Milton could relive his 2017 and 2018 seasons. Over those two seasons, Milton combined to complete 436 of his 684 passes for 7,000 yards, 62 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Musical Quarterbacks Once Again

Travis beat out the former UCF standout for the starting job after a solid fall camp performance. During the 2021 season opener against Notre Dame, Travis was forced out of the game for a play after losing his helmet. Trailing 38-28 in the fourth quarter, Milton immediately delivered a 22-yard strike to Ja’Khi Douglas on his first pass attempt. That led to a Florida State touchdown to cut the deficit to 38-35.

Unfortunately for FSU, it lost the game in overtime by a score of 41-38, but the college football world took notice to Milton’s unbelievable performance in the fourth quarter where he completed five of seven passes for 48 yards.

Milton got the starting nod for the following contest against Jacksonville State. With Travis less than 100% and Milton in his place, the Seminoles were stunned by a game-winning 59-yard touchdown pass from Gamecocks quarterback Zerrick Cooper as time expired. The 20-17 loss was FSU’s first ever to an FCS opponent.

In the ACC opener against Wake Forest, Milton struggled with four turnovers. Travis provided a spark by leading a pair of touchdown drives. On a sack by Wake Forest’s Miles Fox later in the game, Travis injured his shoulder and did not return in a 35-14 loss.

Milton remained behind center the following week as the FSU rally fell short in a 31-23 loss at home to Louisville. For the first time since 1974, the Seminoles were 0-4.

The Turnaround

Struggling and dejected, things began to change when October rolled around. The change was sparked by Travis’ return to the role of starting quarterback.

Against Syracuse on Oct. 2, Travis completed 22 of his 32 passes for 244 total yards and two touchdowns. He also orchestrated a game-winning drive as Ryan Fitzgerald’s field goal on the game’s final snap gave the Seminoles their first win of the season, 33-30.

The offense seemed to be rejuvenated under the guidance of Travis as the Seminoles went on to win five of their last eight games in 2021. That included a 35-25 road win over North Carolina in which Travis accounted for five total touchdowns. His also scored the game-winner as FSU snapped a 4-game skid to rival Miami in the home finale, 31-28.

Optimism Entering 2022

Going into the offseason, there is plenty to be optimistic about. This coaching staff thinks very highly of Travis. That is evident in the fact that Norvell has already named him the starting quarterback and has not acquired another quarterback via the transfer portal.

Confidence is the key motivator for Travis as he is viewed as a dynamic playmaker in this offensive system. He still has some room to grow as a passer, but the biggest question mark will be whether he can stay healthy.