Top 10 Oregon Ducks football recruits: No. 3 Travis Waller – OregonLive.com
How interested in Oregon is Nike SPARQ national champion Kirk Merritt?
Given that the Oregon football commits have set their collective sights on recruiting the 5-foot-11, 205-pound recruit, it seemed like a fair question to ask.
“Travis is probably the main guy, but I talk to him,” defensive back James “P.J.” Locke explained.
“You’d have to ask Travis,” came wide receiver Alex Ofodile’s response.
U.S. Army All-American quarterback Travis Waller was a back-up plan when he committed to the Ducks on July 1, but what he’s developed into as a leader, recruiter and quarterback should have Oregon fans excited about his future.
As a junior, the 6-foot-3, 194-pound quarterback displayed vast potential, but little polish. His throwing motion was long and his accuracy left something to be desired.
So he went to work, tightening up his motion and accuracy while making a name for himself as an high-end recruit.
At the same time as Waller’s ascension, Oregon was striking out with a handful of its top choices for a class of 2015 quarterback. Kyler Murray chose Texas A&M, Brady White committed to Arizona State, and Blake Barnett picked Alabama. In all three cases, the Ducks finished second – which may as well have been last in the recruiting game.
Eventually, Oregon offered Waller, who moved the Ducks into the lead pack until the summer when he committed over offers from Alabama, Arizona, Notre Dame, Penn State, Washington and many others.
In a display of maturity, the California product said he isn’t bothered that he wasn’t the Ducks’ first or second choice.
Bottom line: he’s headed to Eugene. To him, that is all that matters.
“I did go through a stage where I was not too happy they didn’t offer a scholarship yet,” Waller told The Oregonian. “But it’s like a boomerang. There’s a saying that my mom says that what comes around comes back around. (A UO scholarship) came back around, and really it’s just better late than never. I’d rather have the opportunity to really consider Oregon. Once that offer came, I knew I had to take that one.”
Since then, Waller has more than lived up to Oregon’s quarterback legacy, improving his game enough to be selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
“It’s something I never would’ve imagined eight months ago,” he told The Oregonian in mid-November. “I never thought I’d be able to be an Army All-American. I was a little behind all the other quarterbacks, but I’m thankful to be in this spot….”
During the early January all-star exhibition, the Servite High School star didn’t take long to make an impression.
On his first pass attempt Waller rolled out and took a shot square in the chest while delivering a deep pass to the middle of the field that was caught for a 92-yard touchdown pass.
It was a play that spoke to his development, but also what Oregon coaches could unlock in the years to come.
“Nobody will ever be like Marcus Mariota. It’s hard to match that. For whoever is the starter at the University of Oregon, they need to be, say, the best Jeff Lockie, the best Ty Griffin, the best Taylor Allie or the best Travis Waller,” he explained. “”When I threw that touchdown pass in the Army game, that’s just a little peak.”
Marcus Mariota – a figure that will loom large over the next few quarterbacks in Eugene. Living in that shadow will be a daunting task, but Waller said before he even begins to worry about matching the Heisman Trophy winner, he’s got to prove he can be the starter.
“I don’t feel any pressure. My job is to go in and compete,” he said. “There’s been a history of great quarterbacks at Oregon, and it doesn’t get any easier following Marcus Mariota, but, to me, the first step is win the job before you even have to worry about the pressure.”
Winning the starting job is something Waller is quite serious about. Despite a rule that Servite High School students are not allowed to graduate early, his mom, Bridgette Waller, convinced the school to make an exception so that he could enroll at Oregon in time to compete in spring practices.
“I wouldn’t say it was stressful or it was easy, but I think when she supports something, she definitely supports it,” Waller said of his mother. “She figured out that was the best situation for me to compete, so she wanted me to have every advantage that I can. She was willing to do whatever it took to get me there early. I’m not too sure what she had to do, but she got it done which is what I’m really happy for. I know my school might not be too happy, but I just really hope they understand my situation and support it no matter what.”
He isn’t the only early enrollee in the class of 2015. The Ducks have six elite recruits either already on campus or expected to be there soon. The commits, who communicate through group message, collectively decided that they wanted to set a tone.
“That was definitely one of our goals. We talked and we wanted a head start and we wanted to get things rolling,” Waller explained. “Not too many other Pac-12 schools have as many 2015 recruits coming early as us, so that gives us a big jump. That lets you know how serious we are about getting to play early.”
With early enrollment established, Waller has turned his focus to recruiting, where he has become the go-to guy in the recruitment of freakish athlete Kirk Merritt.
“The one guy I’m trying to get right now – and I know I’ve said it a lot – is Kirk Merritt,” he said. “That’s the final element to this recruiting class, I think.”
Merritt may, in fact, wind up the final element, but it’s Waller who has become the class’ cornerstone.
The future Oregon signal-caller won’t be “the next Marcus Mariota,” but he’s working hard to be the best Waller. So far, that has been more than enough.