Some of Travis Trickett’s earliest childhood memories are of football fields. Such is the life when your dad is a coach.
“I remember a little bit of our days at Mississippi State, but really my first vivid memories were at Auburn,” recalled the eldest of Rick Trickett’s three sons. “Coach (Terry) Bowden was a big family guy, so all the coaches’ kids got to come out to practice. We’d all play around with the pads and the bags when the team was on the practice fields. I remember Dad yelling at my Mom, ‘Tara, get them back; they’re too close.”
Travis knew football before he even knew how to walk. His father was an established, highly respected college coach by the time his first son was born in 1984 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
A native of Masontown, West Virginia, Rick entered the Marine Corps after high school. Following his time in the service, which included a stint in Vietnam, Trickett returned to West Virginia to attend college, first at Potomac State and then at Glenville State. The hard-hitting safety embarked on his coaching path after graduating from Glenville in 1972. Starting at his alma mater, he climbed the ladder with stops at WVU from 1976-79, then Southern Illinois (1980-81), Southern Miss (1982-85), New Mexico (1985), Memphis (1986-88), Mississippi State (1989-92), Auburn (1993-98), Glenville again (1999), LSU (2000), a second stint at West Virginia (2001-06) and Florida State (2007-17).
Along the way, he and his wife, Tara Jo, raised three sons – Travis, Chance and Clint. Each caught the coaching bug. Travis is in his 14th season as a college coach, Chance spent a couple years working as a recruiting coordinator for college football programs, and moved into the NFL in 2016. He is now in his fourth year as a scout for the Los Angeles Rams. Mountaineer fans certainly remember Clint, who transferred from Florida State to WVU in 2013 and became West Virginia’s starting quarterback for two seasons. After graduating from WVU in 2014, he followed the family path, coaching at East Mississippi Community College for two seasons (2015-16) and is now in his fourth season as an assistant coach at Florida Atlantic University (2017-present). Clint spent his first three years at FAU coaching tight end, but this year has been promoted to quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.
Unlike Clint, Travis wasn’t gifted with great athletic skills. But it was that lack of ability that actually jumpstarted his coaching career.
“Naturally, growing up around the game, I always loved football, but I didn’t really think about coaching until I realized I wasn’t a very good player,” he chuckled. “My junior year at Morgantown High, I wasn’t starting on offense, though I was playing some on defense. I lost the quarterback job, so I was on the sideline during the game talking to Coach (John) Bowers, and I’d throw out a play here or a play there, and they usually worked. That’s when I thought maybe I’d have a shot at this coaching thing.
“I started thinking in high school that one day I’d like to coach, but what I didn’t realize then was how much I loved to teach,” he added. “It took me a while to figure that out, because I also loved to compete and love to win. Then I discovered the teaching part of coaching, and that’s what I’ve really enjoyed ever since. I still love to compete, but to be a really good coach, I discovered that first you have to be an good teacher.”
After graduating from Morgantown High, Travis enrolled at WVU and immediately began working with the Mountaineer football program, which at that point was under the guidance of head coach Rich Rodriguez.
“I got to spend a couple years as a student assistant under Coach (Bill Kirelawich) and Coach (Bill Stewart),” Tickett noted. “That’s when I realized how much I liked teaching. When you see a guy you are coaching – who you are teaching – go out there and be successful, then you get a great deal of satisfaction. For them to be successful with your help, that’s when I knew I was in the right profession for me. I was called to do this.”
Travis may have felt he had found his calling, but first he had to convince his father. The former Marine had made many an offensive lineman, who may have been a foot taller and a 150 pounds heavier, quiver.
“My junior year of high school, I made the decision I wanted to coach,” recalled Travis. “I told my dad that the next summer, and he was not happy about it. He was actually pretty mad. He always wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. He said I was too smart to coach.
“The thing that he really wanted was for me make the decision on my own,” he said. “So, I had to go in and talk to Coach Rodriguez and tell him I wanted to be a student assistant, I wanted to help out. At first we talked about me maybe walking on, being the next George Shehl and being a holder. But I knew that (strength coach Mike) Barwis would kill me, so I said I didn’t need to play, I just wanted to coach. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Travis wasn’t completely finished as a player, though. With WVU needing a quarterback for a junior varsity game when Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy came to Mountaineer Field, he was pressed into service at QB. He led a late TD drive to give West Virginia the JV win, and then promptly hung up his helmet for good.
From the time Travis was born while his dad was coaching at Southern Miss, Rick had seven different jobs by the time he arrived back at West Virginia in 2001. That meant seven different moves, seven different schools for the kids, seven different sets of friends.
All that change would traumatize some, but not Travis.
“I don’t question it,” he stated. “I have a ton of friends because we moved so many times. It’s helped me personality-wise, because I had to come out of my shell. I couldn’t sit back and be a wallflower. I had to get out there and engage people because there were many times I was the new kid in school.
“You only know what you know,” he continued. “I do know this, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. I’ve got a phenomenal family. My parents were a huge part of what got me to this point now. The Good Lord has a plan for everybody, and I think how I was brought up and the life I lived has set me up on the path I’m on now. It has prepared me for what I was called to do. All the pieces of the puzzle fit together for me.”
Moving every few years may have had drawbacks, but there were also obviously rewards that came with being the child of a major college head coach. Rick worked for the likes of Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Bobby Bowden, Terry Bowden, Charlie Bailey, Jackie Sherrill and others. Travis was along for every step. Rick was part of national championship teams at Auburn in 1993 and Florida State in 2017. More than 40 of his players went on to the NFL, and now at age 72, the Trickett patriarch, who has spent 45 years in the profession, still has the itch to coach, working as the run-game coordinator and assistant head coach for Glenville State.
Until he ventured off on his own, Travis enjoyed those fruits.
“You don’t really appreciate the experiences you get to live until you get older,” said Travis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from WVU in 2007 and a masters in sports administration from Florida State in 2009. “Then you go, ‘Wow, that was unreal.’ We were so fortunate. You’re a little numb to it when you’re young. You just think that’s how everybody lives. But when you get the big picture, you realize how special it was.”
After serving as a student assistant coach at WVU from 2003-06, Travis got an opportunity to be a graduate assistant at Alabama for Saban in 2007. That led him to Florida State, where he held a similar position for Fisher’s Seminoles from 2008-10. Then he got his first full-time coaching job at Samford in 2011. He took over as the offensive coordinator for the FCS program in 2012, and was there through 2015. That led to a chance to become the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at a pair of FBS schools – Florida Atlantic (2016) and then Georgia State (2017-18) – before Neal Brown offered him an opportunity to come back home last winter to coach West Virginia’s tight ends.
“The last name helps,” Trickett admitted, “but you also have to create your own identity. Sometimes familiarity can work against you. You know these people from when you were a young, immature kid; they still think of you as a goofy kid or maybe as a student assistant. You always remember what you remember last. So, I had to forge my own path and make a name for myself. It’s been a great ride. I was an offensive coordinator the past seven years, calling plays and having those responsibilities. That was a great opportunity.”
Now married, Travis and his wife Tiffany (nee Sutton), who is a native of Doddridge County and a WVU nursing school grad, have three children of their own – Maverick, Camilla and Holden.
The return to West Virginia was a move home for all of them. Travis’ grandmother still lives in Masontown, which is less than 30 minutes from Morgantown, and Tiffany’s parents are close again as well.
Being close to family is very important, but the emotion of returning to his alma mater has been important for Travis, as it has former WVU defensive back Jahmile Addae, who is in his first year as the Mountaineers’ cornerback coach.
“He won’t admit it, because he never likes to admit anything, but Jahmile and I were in the press box before the first game,” smiled Trickett thinking back to last fall. “A few minutes before kickoff I went over to him and gave him a hug. I just said, ‘Can you believe this?’ He said, ‘Dude, who are you telling?’
“We wake up every day and put this logo on,” added Rick Trickett’s son. “It’s a badge of honor, but also a responsibility. So, we’re going to get after it and do everything we can for West Virginia University. It’s a job, but it’s awesome when you have something so special. You’re going to do everything you can to make sure it grows and gets to where it needs to be.”