Former Gophers safety Damarius Travis takes on different role in NFL

Travis is on the Patriots practice squad in his first NFL season.

Defensive back for the New England Patriots and former Minnesota player Damarius Travis fields questions during Super Bowl Media Day on Monday.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Defensive back for the New England Patriots and former Minnesota player Damarius Travis fields questions during Super Bowl Media Day on Monday.

Drew Cove

Former Minnesota safety Damarius Travis is the Gophers’ only representative in the Super Bowl this year.

But his role on the Patriots is different from when he was on the Gophers.

Travis plays for the defending Super Bowl champion, where he is currently on the practice squad, after being on the team through the 2017 preseason. At safety, Travis started every game for Minnesota in his senior season, where he led the Gophers in tackles with 83. Travis has yet to record stats with New England this year, but he is still just one game away from being on a championship team.

“It’s been an awesome ride,” Travis said at Super Bowl Media Day Monday night. “I’ve been a part of a good, good football team. [We] go out and work hard every day just to better our craft and just continue to win and do things the right way.”

After he graduated in 2017, Travis signed with New England as an undrafted free agent that spring. He played in the preseason for New England, where he led the defense in tackles through the four games. However, he was released from the 53-man roster in September. One day after he was released from the active roster, Travis made the practice squad. He has been with the Patriots ever since.

“It’s all hard work,” Travis said. “It’s just a matter of the work you put in at each level. Nothing is given, every single thing that you get… you’ve got to earn that.”

Travis has had to fight for his spot on the Patriots’ roster and to do so, he’s had help from veteran teammates in the defensive back core.

Travis credited New England safety Patrick Chung as one of the guys who has helped him out in practice. Chung has played in nine NFL seasons, eight of which have been with the Patriots.

“He’s good, he’s a competitor,” Chung said. “He’s a smart, young player. I tell him all the time, ‘[we’re] looking for someone to take my spot.’”

Defensive back Duron Harmon, who has played in the NFL for five seasons, said Travis sits right next to him in team meetings. Travis does not shy away from asking questions to older players on the team.

“[He’s] always trying to figure out why I’m thinking, the way I’m thinking,” Harmon said. “He’s just somebody who’s continued to try to get better.”

His teammates and coaches at New England said that Travis brings a sense of curiosity to his game. The Patriots’ safeties coach Steve Belichick said his questions and clarifications end up helping the entire team. 

“I can’t say enough good things about Travis,”  Belichick said. “You never know what the future brings, but he’s put himself in a tremendous position. He’s worked extremely hard.”

Though he is back in Minnesota, Travis does not get to prepare for the Super Bowl on his old campus. The Patriots will practice at the Minnesota Vikings Winter Park facility in Eden Prairie, Minn., while the Eagles practice at the new Athletes’ Village complex at the University.

Travis said it would have been nice to practice at Athletes Village. He has yet to see Minnesota’s new practice facility. For now, though, the safety is focusing on other things.

“I could probably see it once the Super Bowl is over with,” Travis said.