LAS CRUCES – Travaughn Colwell stood with his helmet in hand, a smile on his face, as he discussed his most recent move on the New Mexico State football field.
It is his third position change over the past year, this time to the defensive side of the ball. Colwell, the former Aggie quarterback, turned wide receiver and then running back last year, has been lining up at safety this spring in hopes of getting on the field for this his senior season.
“I can’t complain at all,” Colwell said, when asked.
It was a typical response from someone who forever has been the team player, if also a nomadic one. But he is only one of two players the Aggie staff is moving from quarterback in an attempt to shore up the secondary. Sophomore King Davis III has been lining up at cornerback. He started spring workouts at quarterback before a brief move to running back.
“They know situations; they know how to study tendencies,” NMSU defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said of Colwell and Davis. “They know all that. They’re both good guys.”
Coyer mentioned that a player with quarterback experience understands the game.
Said head coach Doug Martin of Davis at cornerback: “I like him there. He’s still learning. He’s got to learn the physical part of the game. But mentally, he understands it. Again, from playing quarterback, he’s got a good understanding of routes and how people are attacking you. His athleticism, again, he’s just like Tra. He’s probably the most athletic guy on the defensive side right now.”
In his freshman year in 2011, Colwell was a quarterback who showed promise. His highlight that season was a relief appearance for injured senior Matt Christian during a 31-24 win over Idaho. In that game, Colwell made some big throws – a 50-yard completion to Kemonte Bateman, followed by a short touchdown pass – then watched the defense make a goal-line stand to preserve the Aggie victory.
The next season, Colwell was used predominantly as a wildcat runner under then-offensive coordinator Jerry McManus.
Last year, under the direction of Martin (Colwell’s offensive coordinator in 2011), the team elected to move Colwell to wide receiver at the outset of the year, and then to running back during the season’s second half.
And now this spring, he’s playing a position he didn’t even play in high school.
“A lot of people don’t understand how hard it is to switch positions at this level,” said senior wide receiver Adam Shapiro, Colwell’s college roommate.
Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing just over 200 pounds, Colwell has long been a standout athlete. Martin added he’s impressed by Colwell’s physicality and ability to hit.
“He’s long, he’s rangy, he’s got great speed, and he’s willing,” Martin said. “The great thing about Tra is he’s willing to be coached.”
Colwell is from Manvel, Texas, a town he said with no more than 8,000 to 9,000 people.
Manvel coach Kirk Martin stated what’s been apparent over the past four years to people familiar with Colwell and Aggie football.
“He’s unselfish. He’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Kirk Martin said. “Whatever that is. And he’s always been that team-first guy. That can be hard to find: Great athletes that will do anything they can, to help their team.”