FOXBOROUGH, MASS. – The Patriots' latest Super Bowl trip will bring Damarius Travis back to Minnesota, where he was a standout defensive player for the Gophers.
Travis, 23, hasn't played in an NFL game since the preseason, but he said a year spent with the Patriots practice squad has helped him grow immeasurably.
Travis spends Patriots practices working with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the offense. He'll be working out with the team next week at the Vikings' Winter Park complex.
"It's awesome," Travis said this week, as the team began preparation for the Eagles. "We challenge each other every day to get better."
Travis was a ball-hawking safety for the Gophers from 2012 to 2016. The Florida native led Minnesota in tackles as a senior but went undrafted last year, so he signed with the Patriots as a rookie free agent.
The 6-2, 215-pound Travis played in all four Patriots preseason games and made 10 tackles against the Giants in the finale. The Patriots released him when they set their 53-man roster, but quickly added him to the practice squad.
The Patriots are loaded in the secondary, led by All-Pro safety Devin McCourty.
"Those are great guys, real good leaders, and I'm just blessed to be around those guys to hear their conversation when they're talking about film, about routes, players," Travis said. "I don't even have to say anything; I can learn a lot just by listening."
What's it like to cover the 6-6, 265-pound Gronkowski?
"He's pretty quick for his size, and he has some speed, too," Travis said. "People can't really see that until they actually go up against him. I think that's why he shocks a lot of people."
After last Sunday's AFC Championship Game, Travis spent a few minutes catching up with former Gophers cornerback Jalen Myrick, who saw playing time for the Jaguars in their 24-20 defeat to the Patriots. Myrick, a seventh round draft pick, played in five regular season games and two postseason games for Jacksonville.
Travis will return to Minnesota after the Super Bowl for his offseason training. He works out at the Velocity Training Center in Edina. He's eager for a chance to show what he can do in the NFL next season.
"I want it to be here [in New England], but I don't have a say so in that," he said. "I'm just going to keep working hard."