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Travis Dorsch: Master of many domains

For Travis Dorsch, former Purdue University football and baseball standout, sports have always been a part of life. After a stint in the NFL and NFL Europa, he quenched his thirst for knowledge by completing his doctoral degree in 2013. Combining a love for learning with a passion to give back to the sports that gave him so much, he’s found his calling as a developmental researcher studying youth sports and their impact on the family as an assistant professor at Utah State University. 

Dorsch grew up in San Diego and competed in whatever sport was in season. His natural athleticism garnered the attention of coaches in youth soccer (center back), baseball (shortstop, first baseman, pitcher), basketball (small forward) and football (quarterback, kicker, punter, wide receiver).

His mother was a real estate broker and his father a civilian contractor to the U.S. Navy. His only sibling, a brother seven years younger, was also a multisport athlete in high school and college.

When Dorsch was 12 years old, his father retired from his civilian post and moved the family from San Diego to Bozeman, Montana, where his dad worked as a high school baseball coach and professional sports agent. 

At Bozeman High School, Dorsch was an all-around athlete competing in four years of football and basketball. On a whim, he joined the track team and became an all-state triple jumper as a senior. He also played four years of American Legion baseball, starting as a first baseman and pitcher. He holds several Montana high school records, including the longest field goal at 63 yards in football and the most rebounds per-game average (14.2) in basketball. He helped lead his basketball team to a state championship as a senior.

His true passion was baseball and basketball, but it was football that ultimately led him to a world-class education at Purdue University and ultimately to the professional leagues. 

As a Purdue undergraduate, he focused on academics while competing in baseball and football.  On the football team, he set several university records, including career scoring (355 points), career field goals (68) and career punting average (48.5).

Dorsch is most proud of being named a consensus All-American and winning the 2001 Ray Guy Award, which is presented annually to America’s top college punter.

Dorsch left an indelible mark as a Boilermaker. He’s the only athlete in school history to have kicked a field goal and thrown a touchdown in football, and hit a home run and recorded a win as a pitcher in baseball.  

Looking back, Dorsch remembers the craziness of being a two-sport athlete and going to class. “Sometimes we’d get back from a baseball road trip at 2 a.m. … and I’d be in the gym at 6 a.m. the next day with the football team for off-season conditioning,” Dorsch recalls. “Sometimes I didn’t know which locker room I was headed to or what day of the week it was. Keeping up with the academics was always a priority, but there were never enough hours in the day to get it all done.”

Dorsch, who once aspired to be an architect, let his athletic talent take him as far as it could. As a 6-foot-7-inch football kicker and punter, he was selected in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He spent time on NFL rosters in Cincinnati and Green Bay and also played for the Rhein Fire of NFL Europa before retiring to pursue his graduate education in 2006. 

For Dorsch, Purdue holds a special place in his heart. He met his wife, Breanna Studenka, while the two were completing doctoral degrees – he in sport and exercise psychology and she in motor control.

“To me, earning a Ph.D. is a lot like making it to the NFL. You are forever considered one of the best, one of the highest achievers, in your area of expertise,” he said.

Dorsch is most proud of his seven Ironman Triathlon finishes. As a former team-sport athlete, the individual nature of the sport challenges him like nothing else.

At Utah State, Dorsch teaches undergraduate courses in lifespan development and human motivation and graduate courses in human development and quantitative and qualitative research methods.

As the founding director of Utah State’s Families in Sport Lab, Dorsch’s research is targeted at understanding the impact of parental involvement in youth sports, its impact on family relationships, and the outcomes of parent support and pressure in youth and adolescent sports. 

As the father of a 15-month-old daughter (Josie), he looks forward to passing the torch to his children and seeing the passion in their eyes, whether it’s sport, science, music or art.  “I look forward to seeing what gets them out of bed in the morning – the same way sport did for me.”

“In a small way, I am giving back, using my experiences to offer families a great platform to enjoy sports the way I did growing up,” he said. “To be sure, sports made me who I am today and it’s time for me to pay that back to the next generation.”

When asked what advice he offers today’s college athletes, Dorsch said, “Sports ends for us all, and when it does, you want to have developed a skillset to be a world-class partner, parent, employee or entrepreneur.”


Travis Dorsch
Assistant professor and founding director of the Families in Sport Lab at Utah State University

School:  Bachelor of Arts in psychology, Purdue University, 2003; Master of Science in sport and exercise psychology, Purdue, 2007; Ph.D. in sport and exercise psychology, Purdue, 2013

Sports:  Football, baseball

Hometown:  Bozeman, Montana

Current City:  North Logan, Utah                  

Fun Fact:  He’s a seven-time Ironman Triathlon finisher.

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