Feature photo courtesy of Jennifer Mahoney.
Travis Spreen would have no trouble getting into college even if he weren’t 6-foot-3, 270 pounds and one of the best centers in high school football.
College counselors might swoon over a junior’s resume that includes three Advanced Placement classes (English Language and Rhetoric, U.S. History and Calculus); an interest in majoring in engineering, chemistry or medicine; participation in the school anti-bullying club; and summers spent working as a counselor at the Sherwood Historical Society in his hometown.
The Sherwood, Oregon prospect can claim all that and a promising football future to boot.
Spreen is one of Oregon’s top 10 recruits in the rising senior class, whether you ask 247Sports, Battle Prep West or The Oregonian. 247Sports gives Spreen a 3-star composite rating, but according to the site’s individual grades, he’s a 4-star prospect and the No. 1 center in the Class of 2018.
With these dual interests in the classroom and the field, Spreen is looking for the best of both as he prepares for college.
“I’m trying to find a balance between those two because I really value going to college. That’s what’s really going to be, in the long run, paying off,” he said. “I dream of going to the NFL. However, you never know.”
Brown, Columbia, Princeton and Yale offered scholarships this winter, but Spreen has no FBS offers yet. He’s expected to draw interest from in-state powerhouse Oregon, but in the meantime, he’ll tour Ivy League schools for unofficial visits this summer, possibly adding Duke, Virginia and Northwestern as well.
That’s a big summer coming up for a teenager who’s never traveled further east than Moscow, Idaho.
Spreen hasn’t had to travel far from the suburbs of Portland to make noise with Oregon powerhouse Jesuit High School. Jesuit won Class 6A state title in 2015, when Spreen became starting center as a sophomore, and only lost one game last year.
Spreen and three other Division I-caliber talents formed a brutal O-line for Jesuit over those seasons. But next season, Jaxson Kirkland (Washington) and brothers Jarred Daul (Brown) and Joel Daul (San Diego) will move on to college ball, so Spreen will be Jesuit’s senior-most and most experienced lineman.
As a result, his coaches plan to utilize him at left tackle and guard in addition to center, which Spreen is looking forward to doing.
“I know for sure that’s gonna help my recruitment with other colleges because they’re gonna be able to see that I’m versatile, that I can play multiple positions, that I just don’t play center,” Spreen said.
Jesuit’s offensive line coach, John Andreas, said the coaching staff will try him in different spots during camp next summer.
“We’re an off-tackle team, so we like to have guys that can move people playing as our tackles,” Andreas said. “With Jarred and Jaxson graduated, it’s kind of an ideal time, so we’ll play around with that a little bit.”
Being a center may not be a glamorous job like left tackle, but it’s a vital and unique position. Spreen has encountered a notion that the least talented offensive linemen are put at center, a notion he said is just not true.
“Throughout the years I’ve been playing center, I’ve gotten a clear sense that it’s the opposite. You need to play your kid that’s the quickest, strongest and most versatile of the whole bunch,” Spreen said. “You’re doing a lot as a center. You’re gonna be snapping the ball, you’re gonna have to be taking a step and you’re gonna have to be blocking a typically-300-pound nose guard in a matter of seconds.”
Spreen said having the background as a center helps him move quicker off the line when playing guard or tackle. Andreas added that Spreen knows the mechanics of the other four positions on the line.
“Playing center, you’re definitely more charged with being the captain of the line, if you will, and because of that he’s very knowledgeable as far as the other positions,” Andreas said.
Whatever happens in 2017 won’t necessarily dictate what positions Spreen will contribute to at the college level.
“Going into college, I’ll be put wherever the coach really needs me the most,” Spreen said. “When it comes playing center or guard or tackle, I’m very flexible. I’ve been playing center for the past couple of years, so that would be the preference, but it doesn’t really matter to me.”
In the meantime, Spreen said his main goal for 2017 is to enhance the team’s camaraderie, “create a team that’s gonna remember each other,” though he added that another state championship would be great, too.
That talk of camaraderie and bringing his teammates together exemplifies the charisma that Andreas said is his favorite thing about Spreen.
“Walking down the hallway, you know that he is there,” said Andreas, who also teaches history at Jesuit.
Again, that’s more than a statement about Spreen’s football frame.
Edited by Abigail Bentz.
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