By Steve Breazeale
One might say that Travis Wilson was destined to be a great player for the San Clemente High School football team.
As a young boy growing up in San Clemente, Wilson dreamt of donning the red and black and taking the field on Friday nights. He was eager to get involved early, and his career as a Triton started on the sidelines, where a young Wilson played the role of water boy. While watching the older kids play, a group that included his brother, Wilson couldn’t wait for his turn.
When the time came, Wilson made good on his dreams.
Wilson was a three-year starter for the Tritons and was the team’s starting quarterback his junior and senior year. The Tritons went 21-5 overall with Wilson, the tall dual-threat signal caller, under center. The 2011 season was a special one, as Wilson guided the Tritons to an appearance in the CIF-SS Pac-5 Division championship game.
A successful four-year career at Utah followed. Wilson was a four-year starter for the Utes and rose to the rank of team captain by the time he was a sophomore. He left the campus in Salt Lake City as the Utes’ quarterback record-holder for starts (39), games played (46) and total touchdowns (75).
Every year, a San Clemente football program selection committee picks a new inductee to join its hall of fame based off a former player’s or coach’s accomplishments on the field and in the community. When Wilson’s name was suggested to be the 2016 inductee, there was no hesitation to vote him in, according to head coach Jaime Ortiz.
Wilson will be inducted into the San Clemente High School football hall of fame during a ceremony at Talega Golf Club on June 3.
“It’s truly a blessing. … There are a ton of guys before me that led the way, and I’m really happy with everything I’ve done in my career and at San Clemente,” Wilson said. “I’m proud to call San Clemente my home and be a part of this hall of fame and be a part of this community.”
Wilson embodied a style of quarterback play that has led the Tritons to success in recent years. As a large dual-threat back, Wilson flashed a strong arm and had a knack for running with the ball. He still holds the school record for most career passing yards with 4,320. He held the record for total offense (5,244 yards) before another dual-threat quarterback, Sam Darnold, surpassed his total in 2015.
Wilson’s style of play influenced the way the quarterback position is played at San Clemente. But where Ortiz sees the most parallels between Wilson and the more recent crop of Tritons quarterbacks is in his attitude.
As a promising sophomore, Wilson was one of five players vying for the quarterback spot. Senior Chase Rettig, who went on to star at Boston College, won the job and Wilson ended up playing wide receiver. Wilson knew if he was patient enough, his time at quarterback would come. In the meantime, he was going to dive headfirst into being a receiver. Darnold, now at USC, followed a similar career path while at San Clemente and his backup, Jack Sears, has now emerged as a legitimate national recruit after waiting behind Darnold.
A talented athlete like Wilson could have transferred out that sophomore year and looked to start at quarterback elsewhere, Ortiz said. Instead he chose to stick it out.
“(Wilson) is a testament to one of our mottos, which is ‘respect the process’. If you do what’s best for the team, at end of the day, good things will pan out,” Ortiz said. “Travis did a great job as a sophomore and then he was a two-year starting quarterback. He’s a prime example for kids that are patient.”
Wilson did not do much waiting at Utah. As a true freshman, he played in all 12 games and started the final seven games of the season at quarterback. His first start came against UCLA, where he completed 23 of 33 passes for 220 yards.
Wilson led Utah to a 4-2 start in 2013, highlighted by a huge upset win over No. 5 Stanford, but a concussion cut his season short nine games in. He returned in 2014 to lead the Utes to a Las Vegas Bowl title, where Wilson was named the game’s MVP.
As the years and reps with his team piled up, Wilson said he began to feel more comfortable in his role. In 2015, Wilson and Utah burst onto the national landscape after opening the season with a win over Michigan and backing it up three weeks later by defeating No. 13 Oregon on the road. Utah crept up as high as No. 5 in the national college football rankings.
Wilson declared for the 2016 NFL Draft following his senior season and earned an invite to the Cincinnati Bengals rookie minicamp in early May. Wilson did not earn a contract with the Bengals but is in the process of signing a contract to play for the North Coast Heat of the National Gridiron League in Australia.
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