Travis Parrish: The long journey to the last frontier

Travis Parrish, a junior forward for UAA Men’s basketball team, has had many stops on his way to becoming a Seawolf. It began in West Bountiful, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, where Travis would spend his days doing odd jobs and playing a plethora of sports, including baseball, football, basketball and running track.

Parrish’s love for sports is credited to his father, Norm, who was the head basketball coach at Salt Lake City Community College for 20 years. Norm led his team to a Junior College National Championship title in 2009, the first in school history. Norm later became the director of basketball operations at the University of Utah, and is now the head coach of Westminster College. Watching him coach and being around organized programs helped shape Parrish into the athlete he is today.

“I always watched his players, and you could see what kind of kids were successful,” Parrish said.

When Parrish became a senior, he had to decide which sport he wanted to pursue at a collegiate level.

“When the offers came in, we gave him his choice of sport,” Norm said.

“I was getting recruited a little bit for both sports [basketball and football],” said Parrish. “Utah State is Division I, they were the biggest school I was talking to for either sport.”

Parrish decided to stay in his home state, and play as a linebacker for the Aggies. However, before he went to his first practice, Travis had a more important goal he had to complete.

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Belonging to the Mormon faith, Parrish planned to do a missionary well before he ever put on a helmet. Parrish had to step away from sports for two years after high school to embark on his mission to Malaysia.

“I was always planning on the mission since I was young so [stepping away from sports] wasn’t hard,” Parrish said.

Parrish spent much of his time in Singapore, as well as smaller neighboring towns. He taught several subjects to different tribes in his two years, and it has benefited him more than anything else he has ever experienced.

“I loved it over there, I didn’t want to come home. It changed me a lot and humbled me a ton,” Parrish said. “When you tell someone from Malaysia you play football or basketball, they do not care or hardly know what it is. It puts everything into perspective a little bit.”

Parrish gained both language skills and life skills on his journey.

“I can speak Malay, I am conversational in Ebon and can read in Indonesian. I learned how to care about other people rather than myself, because before I went, I think I was pretty self-centered.”

Those who have met Parrish after his mission, notice many qualities about him that stand out.

“He has a really good sense of humor, and he is a very kind, smart and honest guy,” Cass Mattheis, a former roommate of Parrish, said.

Parrish’s time in Malaysia soon came to an end, and reality struck. After two years of being away from the game of football, Parrish returned home weighing only 165 pounds — far from the ideal weight of a Division I linebacker.

He got back in the weight room, and gained nearly 70 pounds in his time playing football. He redshirted his first year, and in his second year, Utah State defeated Northern Illinois 21-14 in the 2013 Poinsettia Bowl. With a successful team comes successful players. Parrish played behind Kyler Fackrell, who was invited to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, and is expected to be drafted within the first three rounds, according to many mock drafts. Playing behind such a big shadow, Parrish’s future with the team was uncertain and he began to consider making the switch to the other sport he was all-state in during high school — basketball.

“I’ve always loved basketball. I love football too, but I didn’t like the weight I had to gain. I didn’t think it was worth it, I really did not like weighing that much,” Parrish said. “I loved the games, but it was practice I did not like.”

Regardless, Parrish’s ability to switch from playing one sport to another at any college level is very impressive.

“Not many people can play DI football and then turn around and play basketball for a DII school,” Mattheis said.

Then came another huge life decision. He had to choose where he was going to start his collegiate basketball career, and it came down to UAA and BYU Hawaii, but his final choice was not too hard for him.

“I liked coach Osborne and this arena. I thought I had a better chance to come here and make an impact,” Parrish said. “I think I wanted to try something a little different. Alaska sounded adventurous.”

As most people who have never been to the 49th state, Parrish did not quite know what to expect.

“On my first official visit, Coach Osborne took me to Applebee’s and I was like ‘hey, it is still a regular place,’ because honestly I had no idea what was going to be up here.”

Parrish knew the transition to basketball was not going to be easy, especially since going on a mission and playing football were his two recent priorities.

“I remember his first game in Anchorage, it had been over five years since he suited up for a basketball game, which is pretty wild,” Norm said.

Parrish learned a lot about being an athlete, balancing academics, and about himself during his time at Utah State. He met his wife, Lexie, there, who plays soccer for the Aggies, and they got married this past summer. As for football, even that helped him become the basketball player he is today.

“In football, you lay yourself out there more. I think it actually translates to basketball sometimes, because I end up on the floor all the time,” Parrish said.

“He is a really hard worker, he does not give up.” said Mattheis, who regulary played with Parrish and attended games. “He is the kind of player you want on your team.”

His basketball teammates appreciates his football background, as Parrish is the tough scrapper that gives energy off the bench for the Seawolves. Thankfully for the team and the fans, Parrish plans on returning next season to play his senior year.

Norm had endless positive things to say about Parrish, and rightfully so. His engagement in the classroom, his commitment to his team, and his involvement in not only his community but others have made his father very proud.

“He is just living a good life. He has a good wife… and I know last semester he got a 4.0. I can’t say there is one thing I am proud of,” Norm said.

Parrish is completing a degree in economics, and plans on starting his master’s the following year. Although he is unsure what he wants to do with the degree, it is safe to say that his intelligence, adaptability and heart will lead him wherever he so pleases.