April 5, 2004
by Katie Stuhldreher
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – No one will dispute that the departure of Julius Jones, the fourth-highest all-time rusher in school history, will leave big shoes to fill in the Irish backfield next season. As freshman running back Travis Thomas displays exceptional dedication, determination, and ability on the field during spring practice, he is proving that he is ready to help fill those shoes.
This talented student-athlete began his football career in his backyard with his grandfather and uncles when he was no older than six. Not long after, Thomas began to religiously watch Notre Dame football on television and dream about one day charging out of the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium clad in blue and gold.
“The Irish just caught my eye for some reason. I can’t explain exactly what it was, but there was something special about that team,” Thomas reflected.
After a stellar high school football career at Washington High School in Washington, Pa., where he completed his senior year with 1,176 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, earning all-state honors, Thomas’s dream to play for the Irish came within reach. Thomas was actively recruited by numerous Division I college football programs before deciding to come to South Bend.
“I decided to come to Notre Dame because of the amazing combination of athletics and academics that you find here. I know I made the right decision because of the feel I get here. Notre Dame is special: the morale of the team and tremendous support from fans is unlike anywhere else,” Thomas commented.
Although Thomas did not get any playing time during his first season, he values the learning experiences that he gained from working with the team.
“I didn’t get to play last season, but I took a lot in by watching the other guys, especially Julius Jones and Ryan Grant, to learn what they did to be successful. I know that this is a learning process that I work at day-to-day as I continue to improve,” Thomas added.
Thomas feels that his biggest contribution to the Irish football team is his strong work ethic and enthusiasm on the field. Thomas is not alone in his excitement during off-season training as he captured the team’s attitude towards next season in the phrase “Fire it up!”
“Next season, my goals consist of getting on the field and becoming a playmaker. I’m learning the system and I’m ready to execute consistently and effectively. As a team, we need to establish ourselves early in the season and stay along that path,” Thomas said enthusiastically.
Thomas excelled in the first controlled scrimmage of the spring season on Saturday, turning in a 21-yard breakaway and a one-yard touchdown run.
The 2004 season will be the ultimate trial for Thomas, yet if his performance in spring practice is any indication, he should be just what the Irish need to get “fired up.”
— ND —