Tra Minter: The Jewel of Ellaville
On a cool Pasadena day, talent from every corner of the United States- and even some from its Northern Neighbor as well – took the field at the historic Rose Bowl Stadium. Under the bright lights, Hue Jackson took on Marvin Lewis with their own squads of College All Stars pitted against each other. I had my view from the press box, but as I looked on, I kept asking myself the same question over and over again: “Where’s 25?”
On the American Roster, the man missing in action was none other than Southern Alabama Running Back, Tra Minter. He finished the game with one catch for three yards, and a punt return for six. His team only had 19 rushes and 18 total completed passes, but that was no consolation for Tra – a fierce competitor. He wanted to be out there, putting it all the line, and showing the heart in his game
LoTravious Tishore Minter is a 5’9, 205-pound running back who made his name the past three seasons as a University of South Alabama Jaguar. This past season, he racked up over 1000 yards on the ground on over 5.4 yards per carry, caught over 30 passes, and brought in over 40 combined kick and punt returns. Those are concrete, recordable statistics – which doesn’t account for his excellent work in pass protection. This versatility isn’t by coincidence. He was a two-way player in high school, playing running back, as well as linebacker, safety, and corner. He also was a three-sport athlete – playing basketball and running track as well. However, with Tra, football was different. The game had his heart.
Tra started playing football at 8 years old and hasn’t missed a season since. In fact, there are only 5 running backs in the 2020 Draft Class who haven’t missed a game in their college career- D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, JK Dobbins, Lamical Perine, and, you guessed it, Tra Minter. Not bad company to be named with. But for Tra, the love of the game starts all the way back at 8. He smiled when asked about. “Man, ever since I started playing football when I was 8 years old – I was riled up. My dad signed me up for a rec league – Pop Warner Football – and I’ve been playing ever since. I’ve been having big passion for the game right from the jump.”
While he lists Marshawn Lynch as his favorite recent football player, it was two other iconic running backs who caught young Tra’s eye. “Reggie Bush and Ladainian Tomlinson.” He says it without hesitation. “Those were the two backs who really inspired me.” If you’ve made a connection to Reggie Bush’s and LT’s college number and to Tra Minter’s number 5, you’re not mistaken. But it wasn’t on purpose. “Just a coincidence,” he says. That sounds more like the Universe sending him a gift. Things like that don’t happen on accident.
But getting to where he is today was no accident – it’s the end result of tireless hard work. As I mentioned earlier, he played three sports – and he took those skills with him. “It adds up to me being an [well rounded] athlete. I can play anywhere on the field.” He also mentions his coordination, which shows in both his receiving game and blocking. It all adds up to the summary of his play – work hard, see results. I asked him about his game and how well it fits in the modern NFL – with the need to run, block, and receive – and he agreed. “I can go to teams and help them right away. I got great hands in the backfield; I can run through the tackles… I can make an immediate impact.” We shared a laugh about how all the things the NFL asks for now, LT and Bush had done a decade before.
He’s been putting in work for a long time – with proven results. In high school, he led the entire state of Georgia with rushing yards. “2,456,” he says, easily quoting the ridiculous stat. After choosing to take the JuCo route, he was redshirted his first season. That woke the beast within and helped him lead his team the following year to the JuCo National Championship – and being named an All-American at that level. After accepting his offer from South Alabama, times weren’t as easy. Tra was able to keep his head and still perform, improving each game, despite his team only being able to celebrate 10 wins in the following three years. He improved every year, including setting the South Alabama record for rushing yards in a season just recently in his final season. In fact – he capped off his collegiate career with a 100+ yard rushing game giving his program their second and final win of the season – and leaving the program with a W. When asked how he got through it all, the answer was simple. “I got a strong mindset. I come every day to work – to work. I keep pushing.” That work ethic is what NFL teams love, and scouts fall in love with.
Outside of the game, Tra Minter the person though. He has an eclectic taste in books and movies – the Harry Potter series and Boyz in the Hood, respectively. His hobbies outside of football including playing video games with his friends, among others. But what always intrigues me is what people listen to – and for this Ellaville, Georgia native, Atlanta rap is the answer. I was lucky enough to find a preexisting list of his favorite rapper – including Gucci Mane, Future, and Young Thug among others – and the mere mention of it lit his face up. “I’m from the state of Georgia, so they’re at home to me. I grew up listening to the music.” Tra wanted to be clear though, making sure to note that it’s not about what they said – it’s about the beat and the flow. It also makes up a big part of his pregame routine. “I get my swag right,” he says, cluing me in on the process. “I listen to music, and I got to be alone. I got to meditate and get in my zone. Once I get in my zone? I’m ready.”
The temperature was dropping, and as players and coaches alike headed out of the stadium, it was time for one final question. For Tra Minter – Georgia’s High School rushing leader, JuCo Champion, and record holder of the Jaguars – what was the last memory he’ll have of South Alabama? “Breaking the school rushing record. That’s the last memory – we went out on top winning, against Arkansas State. That’ll be my last, best memory.” There’s no doubt about going on out top with Tra – and as he left the NFLPA Bowl, it was off for some pre-draft training, getting ready to impress the scouts at the South Alabama Pro Day. He never stops working – and he’s planning on doing so at the next level.