Kansas Pregame coverboy Travis Theis commits to the University of South Dakota
Pratt quarterback/running back Travis Theis will go down as one of the state’s all-time greats. He’ll be remembered with the likes of other undersized Kansas stars like Rossville’s Tucker Horak and Paola’s Brian Shay. Could he find similar success in college? The next four years will tell the tale, and for Theis, known for his supreme focus and intensity, that tale will be written at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.
Theis, who has earned the respect of his coaches in Pratt and from opponents across the state, shunned offers from local Division II schools and has resisted a late push from FCS and FBS programs. He said he is 100 percent committed to the Coyotes and plans to sign with the FCS program on National Signing Day, February 6.
In a recent interview with Kansas Pregame, Theis said he was drawn to the importance of football at South Dakota.
“The coaching staff and school is very serious about a culture change in the football program,” Theis said of the Coyote program that finished last season 4-7 under fourth year coach Bob Nielson. “Coach Neilson and the rest of his staff plan on being there for a long time.”
Theis said the community support in Vermillion is “outstanding” and said improvements to facilities were a factor in his decision.
“The multi-million dollar renovations being made in the football department right now will put the school amongst the top FCS schools in the nation.”
Theis said South Dakota plans to use him as a running back and he intends to study Kinesiology with plans to continue his involvement in football after college.
“That could mean PT (physical therapy), college coaching or high school coaching,” Theis said.
The Coyotes have made a push to recruit more Kansans under Neilson and a number of Kansans played key roles for USD last season including defensive back Mark Collins, Jr. (Blue Valley West) and linemen Braden Schneider (Jeff Co. North), Cody Jennings (Southwestern Hts., Garden City CC) and Tanner Anderson (Derby).
Check out his senior highlights here:
Theis earned Top 11 honors from nearly every media outlet in Kansas. Below is his Top 11 capsule from the Kansas Football Coaches Association, produced in partnership with Kansas Pregame.
Travis Theis, Pratt, 5-10, 198, QB/RB
Though small in stature Theis will be remembered for his intense focus and superior effort on the field.
Theis led the Greenbacks to the 4A-II title as a sophomore running back and after the team missed the playoffs during his junior season coach Jamie Cruce switched Theis to quarterback in his Flexbone offense in 2018. Theis proved the very few skeptics of the position switch wrong in a big way leading Pratt back to the title game, this time in the newly renamed 3A, where he nearly led the Greenbacks to a win over defending 3A champs Sabetha in overtime.
The Kansas Pregame coverboy tallied 2,608 yards rushing with 43 rushing touchdowns this season on 230 carries, good for an average of 11.3 yards per rush. He also passed for 985 yards completing 36 of 72 passes for 11 touchdowns with just one interception. He rushed for more than 6,700 yards in his career with 101 touchdowns.
In addition to the recognition from the KFBCA Theis was named Top 11 by both The Topeka Capital-Journal and Wichita Eagle and earned Offensive Player of the Year honors from SportsinKansas.
Pratt coach Jamie Cruce on Theis: “Travis is one of the toughest kids I’ve been around. His work ethic is unmatched and his ability to take over a football game is something special. Travis has the leadership traits that coaches look for in players. He had one of the best high school careers in the state of Kansas statistically, but he also did all of the other things behind the scenes to help ensure not only his own success, but the success of his entire team as well.”
Kingman coach Curtis Albin on Theis: “In twenty years of coaching Travis is the best leader that I have seen. His ability to lead by example this year was the difference when we played them. He just refused to let anything stop him. By far the most impressive thing about him though is that he is a genuinely nice kid. He slowly went through the line after the game and wished our kids and coaches luck on the rest of the season. I was told by other coaches that this happened with them as well. Sportsmanship and class out of your best player always results in a successful season, (Pratt) certainly had that.”
Below find the cover feature on Theis by Conor Nicholl from last year's Kansas Pregame Football Magazine:
In early summer, Pratt football coach Jamie Cruce missed a week of weights because of his ailing mother, Janet Rae Abrams, who lived in Salina. Senior Travis Theis sent texts of support to Cruce during his absence. Abrams died June 30. Theis talked with friends and said he was going to the funeral. Seniors Kadence Riner and Sevren Hance were available and rode with Theis. The kindness touched Cruce, now entering his sixth year.
“It’s easier to do for someone that’s always been there for you like coach Cruce has for me,” Theis said. “And ever since I met coach Cruce, our relationship’s really grown, and he’s a great guy, and I wouldn’t miss anything like that for him.”
The 5-foot-9, 198-pound Theis is entering his fourth season as a starter. He has been one of Kansas’ top football players since his sophomore season and lifts more weight than most collegians. A two-time all-state player, he helped Pratt win the Class 4A, Division II crown in ’16 and post a 7-2 record last fall. Theis, the third-oldest of five in an athletic family, is a three-sport athlete and carries a 3.7 GPA. Additionally, he loves to be around people and often thinks of others. Sometimes, Theis pulls Cruce aside, offers appreciation and tells him he loves him.
“I didn’t spread the information around,” Cruce said. “They had just heard that she’d passed, and they drove two hours to go to the funeral and showed up, so he is very personable. He’s kind of a total package.”
Entering the last week of July, Theis had maxes of 295 in bench, a school record 335 in clean and 560 in squat. He posted 4.44 seconds hand-timed 40-yard dash at two summer camps.
Outside of NAIA, Theis has not received any scholarship offers. Cruce, the former Bethany College coach, believes Theis would a “difference maker” at Division II or NAIA. Multiple schools have shown interest, including Division I’s Wyoming, Air Force, and multiple FCS schools like South Dakota and South Dakota State. Theis knows schools are likely focusing on his size.
“It’s hard to overlook 5-9, and I understand that when there’s bigger kids,” Theis said. “You can’t teach size, but you can’t teach heart either.”
Theis has stayed positive and enjoyed the summer camp experiences. Theis said he had “good bonding time” with his parents, Lyndel and Rusty, on the long treks to South Dakota for workouts on back-to-back days.
Theis’ older brother, Jerod, started at center for Pratt. Sister Brooke participated in volleyball at Pratt Community College last fall and was one of the leading attackers. Kami earned first team all-league pitcher as a freshman for the Pratt softball program.
“I am pretty lucky,” Travis said. “I have a great family, great parents, very supportive, taking me all over this summer. Full-time jobs, but can take off whenever they need, come watch us play, come watch us do everything.”
Cruce first saw Theis when he helped coach Pratt junior high basketball. He noticed Theis’ athleticism and incredible strength. As an eighth grader, Theis showed good form, strength and could outperform high schoolers in the weight room. Freshman year, Theis, then at 5-9, 170, became quarterback after an injury to Landen Studer. He took snaps from his brother, who was 6-1, 215. Travis liked chasing his brother’s personal bests in the weight room. Theis could squat more than 400 pounds and was just behind his brother’s numbers.
“Just part of the game really,” Theis said of lifting. “I have always been a pretty strong kid, and making people drop their jaws, making people want to put that weight on, that sort of thing really, it’s just fun.”
In ’16, Theis helped Pratt to an eight-win improvement and the surprise state title with 1,975 rushing yards.
“High school level, he is nearly impossible to tackle,” Cruce said.
Last fall, Pratt ran its winning streak to 15. The Greenbacks suffered its first ‘17 loss in Week 8 to Holcomb, 19-14. The Longhorns eventually captured state. In Week 9, Pratt missed the playoffs with a surprising 39-25 loss to Kingman. Theis finished with 1,691 yards and 25 scores.
This fall, Theis moves back to quarterback and should switch to linebacker after 217 tackles at defensive back his last three years.
“It’s easy to get content, to be OK with being average and it gets easier after you win some-thing like a state title,” he said. “…We kind of let up, and that’s what got us beat. We weren’t as prepared our last two games. We had a tough loss to Holcomb, and it won’t happen again this year. We will be prepared.”
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