LOGAN, Utah – Growing up in Provo, Utah, senior wide receiver Travis Van Leeuwen had a choice to make. Just a short distance from each of the major universities in Utah, he had ties to each school and had the attention of each of them as he progressed through his football career.
As he started his senior season at Timpview High School, Van Leeuwen was being heavily recruited, but still didn’t have any solid offers.
“I was getting a lot of interest from different schools in the Western Athletic Conference, Mountain West, Pac-12 and Big 12,” Van Leeuwen said. “Going into my senior year they had interest, but the teams just kept telling me to keep waiting, saying I was still on their board and didn’t want me to go anywhere else.”
Between being raised by his BYU graduate parents and growing up just blocks from LaVell Edwards Stadium, the Cougars had a lot of interest in Van Leeuwen. At the same time, he had played little league ball with now-Aggie teammate Keegan Andersen. With those ties, he caught the attention of former USU head coach Gary Andersen, while he was an assistant coach at the University of Utah. Once Andersen took the head coaching position at Utah State, he called Van Leeuwen.
“Utah had recruited me pretty heavily, so when Coach Andersen got the job here, he called and offered me a spot on the team,” Van Leewuen said. “He offered me, and I committed on the spot.”
With no other guaranteed offers and one he liked on the table, it was an easy decision for him to choose to be an Aggie.
“I told all the other schools that I’d committed and was going to Utah State,” Van Leeuwen said.
That choice is one he has never regretted.
“I love it,” he said. “This is a great school up here.”
As the Utah State football program has turned around, the rivalry between the major schools in the state has caught fire. In the time Van Leeuwen has been an Aggie, both in-state foes have been beaten on Merlin Olsen Field.
“I’ve loved competing against BYU each year. Both my parents went there, and I have a lot of respect for that school. I was recruited heavily by both Utah and BYU through high school, so I never really picked a favorite between the two,” Van Leeuwen said. “I ended up here at Utah State, and now they’re a rival of ours.”
The process of becoming a winning program and a household name has not been easy for Utah State. From four wins as a freshman to 11 his junior year, the development of the team has been an arduous task that has taken countless amounts of time and effort.
“It’s been a lot of work. It didn’t come easy at all. It took time,” Van Leeuwen said. “Coach Andersen got it going, and we all believed in it and the whole program just turned.”
The big turning point for the team and fans alike was the game at Hawai’i in 2011. A 2-5 team at that point, the team came from behind to win that game along with the next four. They continued to the first bowl appearance Utah State had seen since 1997.
“That Hawai’i game was when everything started to roll and everyone started to really believe,” Van Leeuwen said. “We knew we could be a big time team after that.”
When Andersen left for his new position at Wisconsin, very few people worried about the continuation of the program’s success. As Matt Wells took over the reigns, it provided a fluid transition into the new conference.
“Coach Wells has done a great job taking over and keeping this program on the rise going into the Mountain West,” Van Leeuwen said.
As a senior, Van Leeuwen has worked his way up the ranks and proven himself to the coaching staff and Aggie fans. He takes his position seriously and does whatever he can to constantly compete.
“I just want to be a leader for the offense and wide receivers. I want to compete for all-conference honors against all the other receivers in the Mountain West,” Van Leeuwen said. “I check their stats each week to see how they’re doing. I want to compete with them so I set goals to try to be the best in those categories. I take it game-by-game to help this team win.”
Van Leeuwen’s main goal is to be there for his teammates and provide whatever help he can.
“I’m a playmaker and someone who does things right. I want to be the guy they can always count on and go to in any situation. I want them to be able to come to me for help anytime they need it,” he said. “I want to be there for everyone on the team. I’m not that vocal, but I try to lead by example.”
As he has progressed through his collegiate career, Van Leeuwen credits his family and his faith in keeping him going and striving to succeed.
“I try to honor my family with how proud they are of me and what I’m doing,” he said. “I just want to keep them proud and keep going in the right direction to be the best I can be.”
Van Leeuwen is set to graduate in December with an interdisciplinary studies degree emphasizing in sports management. Along with the challenges of graduating, Van Leeuwen is set to marry his fiancee Annie in January.
In all the choices he’s made to get to where he is, Van Leeuwen has learned to give everything he does his best.
“If you try to shortcut things, you’re going to get cut short. Putting in the work and doing things the right way is a big thing,” Van Leeuwen said. “Those things tie in together to make you a great athlete and a great person.”
– USU –