USC RB Travis Dye: ‘I’ve never had this much fun in my life playing football’

For four years, running back Travis Dye was a key member of one of USC’s biggest rivals. But it did not take long after the former Norco High star transferred from Oregon back to Southern California for him to win over the Trojans’ fan base with his tough runs, thoughtful critiques of the team and the occasional dancing to “YMCA” on the sidelines.

But Dye’s season and college career came to a premature end Nov. 11 because of a fractured ankle. Dye spoke with the Southern California News Group about that day, his time at USC and what the future holds in store for him.

Q: Let’s take it back to that moment on the field in the first half of the Colorado game after you’ve been hurt. Your brother Tony tweeted he had never seen such an outpouring of support for a fallen teammate as he did when all the USC players crowded around the cart. What do you remember from that moment?

Dye: “When the injury happened, I knew it was going to take me out for the season. I felt like my teammates and even the other team around me just knew that it was a situation where nobody wants to be. And they kind of rallied around me, which was a beautiful moment. But at the same time I’m still thinking, ‘I’m never going to put on a USC uniform again.’ And that hurt a lot, just that thought. It kept replaying in my mind. I’ll never be able to suit up with these guys again, my brothers again. So that’s what was racing through my mind. But just the overwhelming support that came through, it was unmatched. It helped me to calm down, it helped me to relax knowing that the guys were there, that they got me. Even the other team coming up to me and giving me their two cents, that was really nice, too.”

Q: Your teammates talked about your high spirits when you got back to the sidelines. How did you maintain such a positive attitude despite understanding the magnitude of the injury?

Dye: “Control what you can control. And at that point in time, I couldn’t control anything about me going back on the field. There was no reason for me to sulk and feel sorry for myself at that point. I was done with the injury and so they wrapped me up and I wanted to go straight down to the field and encourage my guys. Because that’s what I could control at the time. I couldn’t control anything else, I could only control my attitude. I was trying to make sure my guys knew it wasn’t about me, it was about the team, always.”

Q: You raised a red flag early in the season, trying to set a higher standard and worrying about the team’s preparation and focus. Given that, how proud were you to see how the team closed the season and fought through injuries in the Pac-12 championship?

Dye: “It was super awesome to see because I was a little worried when I first came in. How is this team going to react to all of these transfers coming in? Me coming in. I’m from a different Pac-12 school so I’ve played against a lot of these guys. So it was a lot of uncertainty. But I knew I wanted to go in there not just for my personal gain, trying to get my draft stock up or anything. I went in with the thought in mind that I’m trying to win, I’m trying to make a difference at this school. So just to see how the season ended up, it was unbelievable. I could have never guessed it would have went this far. Not just the wins and losses, but the connection to the team. It was unmatched. I’ve never had this much fun in my life playing football. Even in the meeting rooms, it just somehow, some way turned out to be fun. But the thing is with this team, we know when it’s time to work, too. We had a good mesh of that on this team.”

Q: Coach Lincoln Riley spoke last week about how the legacy of the 2022 USC team will be that it started a new era of winning. What does it mean to you to have that be part of your legacy here?

Dye: “Oh, it means absolutely everything. When I was little, when you’re talking about college football, all you can think about is USC. You can’t have a conversation about college football unless you put ‘SC in the conversation. And that kind of went away in the last few years. And so just to be able to put that back on the map where USC is in that conversation again, to be the team that propels the future, to plant the seeds even though we’re not going to enjoy the shade, there’s a sense of just accomplishment. It was pretty crazy to think about and to think our team was the one to do it.”

Q: Part of the reason for you transferring back to Southern California was to be close to your family in Norco for a year before the NFL. How did that aspect live up to your expectations?

Dye: “It played out even better. I wouldn’t expect any of this to go down the way it went down. The family part, it was wonderful, having even my wife’s family here and my family at your disposal, it was really nice. We were going down almost every weekend, especially on our breaks going to see them and having lunch and dinner and stuff like that. Bringing her family and my family closer and make one big family, that’s what’s been really nice to see. This year’s been the glue to that.”

Q: And I understand you and your wife are expecting your first child, a boy due in June. What aspect of fatherhood are you most excited about?

Dye: “Mostly just I want to teach him as much as I can and let him choose whatever path he wants to choose, whether that’s in sports or whatever he wants to do. I just want to give as much information and education as I can to him so he can choose wherever he wants to go, be what he wants to be. I’m just excited to watch him grow from a baby to a little human. I’m really excited about that part.”

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Q: The next step for your football path is preparing for the NFL draft. Where are you in that process and how is the recovery going from your injury?

Dye: “Recovery is going really well. I’m walking, I’m out the boot and stuff. It’s going really fast, too. I’m training for the combine now and using all the resources I can through USC. Even Oregon’s been helping me out a little bit. So it’s just been a lot of support trying to get me back on track and I can’t do anything but appreciate it.”

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