Oct. 22, 2004
#97 Travis Leitko
Junior, 6-6, 275
The Woodlands, TX/The Woodlands
Junior Travis Leitko begins his third season at Notre Dame as one of the team’s top defensive reserves and top special teams players. The hard-working athletic defensive end played in 10 games last season, making five solo tackles and seven assisted stops. He had a quarterback sack and forced a fumble versus Brigham Young. Going into the Navy game, Leitko had played in five of the first six games with four tackles while forcing a fumble. GameDay Magazine’s Bridget Viehmeyer gives Irish fans a chance to get to know Travis Leitko.
Veihmeyer: Tell me about your major and why you’re interested in it.
Leitko: I’m majoring in Aerospace Engineering. Growing up I always read science fiction novels and still do when I have time, which isn’t very often. I’ve always been interested in outer space, and I think it’s a very applicable career to pursue.
Veihmeyer: What is your hardest class?
Leitko: The toughest classes I’ve had are either Fluid Dynamics or Differential Equations.
Veihmeyer: What made you pick Notre Dame over the other schools you were interested in?
Leitko: Notre Dame offered me everything that I was looking for. The athletics, the academics and the social atmosphere I liked. I like how you get a chance to live with non-athletes in the dorms and you get to know people outside the team. Besides Notre Dame, I considered Michigan, Texas, Texas A&M and Stanford.
Veihmeyer: To date, what has been the highlight of your Notre Dame career?
Leitko: So far, my career highlight has been earning my starting position on kickoffs. It’s great being able to go out there with guys half my size and be an impact player.
Veihmeyer: As a football player is there anyone you’ve modeled your game after?
Leitko: I really don’t model my game after anyone. I’ve just tried to follow my own mentality with trying my hardest, giving an all-out effort and never giving up.
Veihmeyer: Do you have any pregame rituals?
Leitko: Before the game, I listen to a little music, try to get focused and go through some of the plays I might see during the game.
Veihmeyer: What is one thing in your life you can’t live without?
Leitko: The one thing that I can’t live without is my family.
Veihmeyer: Who has been your biggest non-sports role model and why?
Leitko: My parents have always been my biggest non-sports role model because they’ve always been supportive.
Veihmeyer: What is the best advice that you’ve ever been given and who gave it to you?
Leitko: My dad told me to find something I love to do and it will never be work.
Veihmeyer: How have you grown as a person since coming to Notre Dame?
Leitko: Since coming to Notre Dame, my decision-making ability has improved, as well as my will power. When things need to get done, I can do them. Also, all the interaction with people that I have through the football program has helped my ability to engage people. It’s very applicable in the real world.
Veihmeyer: What is one thing about you that might surprise people?
Leitko: I think it surprises people that I am an engineer. I think a lot of people have the idea that football players aren’t that academically gifted, but for me, football is a means to an end. It allowed me to get here and get this great education. Being a “student-athlete” means that I’m a student first and an athlete second.
Veihmeyer: How do you balance your academic and football workloads?
Leitko: For me to balance football and academics, time management and the will power to set things aside and get them done are important. A lot of times as a football player and an engineer, you’re backed into a corner; there’s no other option except to get it done.
Veihmeyer: If you were stranded on an island and could only eat one meal, listen to one song, and have one person with you; what would you eat, what would you listen to and who would you pick?
Leitko: I’d take my sister, because we get along really well and have the same sense of humor. I would listen to Taking Back Sunday. The meal would be a Cajun dish that my mom makes–it’s rice, chicken, sausage and spicy sauce.
Veihmeyer: What is your favorite movie?
Leitko: My favorite movie is The Sandlot.
Veihmeyer: What is the toughest place you’ve played as a college football player?
Leitko: The toughest place that I’ve played is at Michigan, because of the ferocity of their fans.
Veihmeyer: If you had the chance to play golf with anyone in history, who would be in your foursome?
Leitko: Leonardo DaVinci, Thomas Jefferson and Lao Tzo.
Veihmeyer: When your football career is over, what do you see yourself doing?
Leitko: I plan on working with my degree, probably in the research design area. I’m not sure if I’ll be working for NASA or in the private sector, but hopefully I’ll be in the upper management level making some money.
Veihmeyer: If you could be a cartoon character, who would you be and why?
Leitko: Superman. He’s such a wholesome character and stands for a lot of the right things that this country believes in. It would also be cool to have X-ray vision and be able to fly.
Veihmeyer: Describe what it feels like on gameday and playing in Notre Dame Stadium?
Leitko: You’re so into the game. Everyone talks about the 80,000 fans and rankings and television, but when you’re on the field, you’re just thinking about the game. It’s one of those times when everything is worthwhile.
Veihmeyer: What is your favorite thing about playing for Notre Dame?
Leitko: I think this team is so much more connected and more of a team than you’d find at other schools. Whatever creed, whatever color, everyone here has a bond, a feeling of brotherhood with the guy next to him.