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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Servite's Travis Waller has found a home at quarterback

The junior, moved from receiver last season, is a born leader, with 'wow'-inducing athleticism and a drive to be his best. He faces his toughest football challenge yet against Concord De La Salle.

October 03, 2013|Eric Sondheimer

Charisma. Intelligence. Athleticism. Toughness. Those are just a few of the qualities exhibited by junior quarterback Travis Waller of Anaheim Servite.

If a coach needs a teenager to lead on and off the field, Waller is the ideal candidate.

With a 3.8 grade-point average, off-the-chart physical skills and personal experiences that keep him inspired and focused, the 6-foot-3 Waller shows every sign of understanding what it takes to succeed.

Moved from receiver to quarterback in the fifth game of last season, Waller has found his calling.

"This is my position," he said.

The Friars switched to a no-huddle, spread offense launched from a shotgun formation this season, and Waller is blossoming with every snap. Whether running, passing or leading, he has star quality marked all over him.

He's facing his biggest challenge Saturday night, when Servite (3-1) faces the state's preeminent football team, Concord De La Salle (5-0), in a 7:30 p.m. game at Santa Ana Stadium.

"I think the spread offense works for me perfect," he said. "I can do many things. When you leave an open gap in the defense, I'm going to take it."

Waller is one of the basketball team's best dunkers and is a 44-foot triple jumper. To see him juking and making defenders miss in open field leaves a "wow" reaction.

But as found in every good quarterback, it's off the field where lessons learned provide a clue to what he's capable of accomplishing.

He has been raised by his mother, Bridgette, who makes sure she is a close confidant and role model for Waller.

"I care about my mom a lot," he said. "She grew up with a rough life. She didn't really have anyone around at the age of 13. I want to make her proud. She didn't have someone to look up to, and I do."

His mother owns a notary business. The night before each game, she gives her son a pep talk and reminds him what's important.

"She talks for about 30 minutes," he said. "We talk about God and faith and reflect."

Waller is also grateful for his older brother, Austen, who mentors him, advises him and is always ready to provide support. Waller said he hasn't spoken to his father in years, and that's where his brother has stepped in.

"He's 21," Waller said. "He could be out doing other things, but he's helping me. He's like my father to me."

First-year Servite Coach A.J. Gass has put his trust in Waller and keeps being rewarded. In Servite's 31-24 win over defending Pac-5 champion Long Beach Poly, Waller ran for 190 yards and passed for 116 yards. In the first half of a 38-14 victory over La Mirada, he was 11 for 11 for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

"The idea is to put Travis in position to use all his tools," Gass said.

Teammates want to play for him. Classmates want to be friends with him. Coaches want to coach him.

"I think I have the most fun when I see my linemen jumping up," Waller said.

The way he plays and the attitude he exudes are something Servite fans will cherish for the next two seasons.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATSondheimer

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