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Living in the moment: Jalen Travis reflects on activism and athletics at Princeton

A man with a gray sweater clapping in front of an audience.
Jalen Travis has helped lead the Tigers to a 3–1 conference record, placing them atop the Ivy League.
Courtesy of @princetonftbl/Instagram

For senior Jalen Travis, football is just one of his many passions. Hailing from a town less than two miles away from where George Floyd was murdered in May 2020, advocacy and activism were central to his upbringing.

“Following the murder of George Floyd is when [my activism] really took that next step in terms of finding my place in that movement [and] finding my place given my identity as a biracial male in Minneapolis,” Travis told the Daily Princetonian in an interview.


Travis’ passion for advocacy and activism only grew from there through his role as Class President at DeLaSalle high school. At Princeton, he serves as co-director of the Minority Pre-Law Association, and he is a liaison for Princeton’s Advocacy and Activism Student Board. Travis applies the same drive to his athletics that he does to his advocacy. 

“On the field we’re not going to win every rep; not every play is going to be our best play,” Travis told the ‘Prince.’ “I translate that directly into advocacy and activism — you’re not going to convince somebody of your argument or your cause, oftentimes, the first go around.”

“[You have] the goal of people joining your cause, joining your movement, but from their own viewpoint,” Travis continued. “I think that’s very similar to football, where it’s all about the collective and play after play to fight towards a win and ultimately to reach your end goal at the end of the season.”

Travis, an offensive lineman and captain for the Tigers, has earned recognition for his activist, academic, and athletic achievements. 

As a junior, he was named Second-Team All-Ivy, having played a key role in the Ivy League’s then-No. 1 passing offense. Most recently, he was named a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, one of the most prestigious academic-focused awards in college football. He was also named a Fall 2023 PNC Achiever and recognized as a 2023 Truman Scholar — an award centered around leadership, public service, and academic achievement.

“It’s amazing, just understanding the history that trophy has,” Travis said about the William V. Campbell Trophy. “To even be considered in the conversations with some of our sport’s best who were both exemplary players and accomplished great lives off the field, it’s a blessing.” The award has previously gone to notable NFL players like Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow, and Justin Herbert during their respective collegiate careers.


“I think that it’s a tremendous blessing to even be considered in these conversations and also validation for all the work I’ve put in up to this point,” Travis continued. “But it’s also a promise for what the future may hold.”

Though that future is certainly bright, Travis’ focus currently lies on his Princeton football team. It’s in the locker room, as well as on the field, where Travis stands out to his teammates.

“Aside from football, Jalen is a great guy. What is special about him is how intelligent he is,” junior running back John Volker ’25 told the ‘Prince.’ “There have been many occasions where I walk into the locker room and he is discussing real world events in depth with other guys on the team. I’m not sure how many college football locker rooms have these discussions going on inside them, but I doubt it’s a lot, if any at all.”

Travis will play an integral role for the Tigers during the second half of their season as they continue to mount a push for the Ivy League title. Most recently, he featured in Princeton’s 14–3 win on the road against Cornell, improving the Orange and Black’s Ivy League record to 3–1, currently tied for the League’s first place spot. 

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Nonetheless, Travis’ football career may just be getting started as he is being considered as a late-round prospect for the upcoming 2024 NFL draft. He was selected to be a part of the 2024 Senior Bowl Watchlist and the East-West Shrine Bowl 1000: a feat accomplished last year by Andrei Iosivas ’23, who now plays in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals after he was selected in the sixth round of the 2023 NFL draft. 

“[Jalen's] super athletic and I know his family is full of a bunch of athletes. You can see that lineage and it translates to him as well,” Iosivas told the ‘Prince’ about Travis. 

“He’s got the mental tools as well,” Iosivas continued. “So he obviously has the smarts to go along with it, and you always know those guys will eventually find a way and I’m excited to see what his future holds for him.”

What makes Travis stand out — literally — is his height. At 6’ 9’’, he is a physical presence on the O-line. Compared to current NFL players, he is only one inch short of the current tallest NFL player Dan Skipper, who stands at 6’ 10’’. However, it is the combination of his height and his mobility that allows him to be such an effective blocker.

“Running behind Jalen is a running back’s dream. He makes me look good, and you can feel his presence and strength on the field,” Volker said to the ‘Prince’ about Travis. “I can always count on him to help me up after each play and be one of the first guys to celebrate with me when that play ends in the endzone.”

For now, Travis wants to make the most of his last year at Princeton. With the NFL draft coming in late April 2024, there is still plenty of time until the draft enters the forefront of Travis’s mind.

“It’s a tremendous blessing, truly something I could have only fathomed as a kid growing up playing the game,” Travis told the ‘Prince’ about his NFL prospects. “But I’m just trying to stay in the moment and realize that I only have five more games here at Princeton, so I’m trying to value each and every day.”

Alex Beverton-Smith is a contributor to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’

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