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Archive for Sunday, January 20, 2013

Family man: KU’s Travis Releford relishes fatherhood

Kansas University senior Travis Releford, left, poses for a family portrait with 2-year-old son T.J. and girlfriend Jennifer Covell. Travis grew up without his father — in jail for second-degree murder — and vowed Travis Junior won’t suffer the same fate.

Kansas University senior Travis Releford, left, poses for a family portrait with 2-year-old son T.J. and girlfriend Jennifer Covell. Travis grew up without his father — in jail for second-degree murder — and vowed Travis Junior won’t suffer the same fate.

January 20, 2013

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Kansas University senior Travis Releford, left, poses for a family portrait with 2-year-old son T.J. and girlfriend Jennifer Covell. Travis grew up without his father — in jail for second-degree murder — and vowed Travis Junior won’t suffer the same fate.

Kansas University senior Travis Releford, left, poses for a family portrait with 2-year-old son T.J. and girlfriend Jennifer Covell. Travis grew up without his father — in jail for second-degree murder — and vowed Travis Junior won’t suffer the same fate.

Travis Releford hustled out of Allen Fieldhouse on the evening of Jan. 2, 2011, after collecting five assists and three rebounds while failing to score in a 27-point rout of Miami of Ohio.

Then a Kansas University sophomore, his mission was to drive — make that speed — from Lawrence to Overland Park Regional Medical Center in time to join his girlfriend, Jennifer Covell, for the birth of their baby boy.

“He was delivered right after I got to Kansas City,” Travis said of T.J. (Travis, Jr.) Releford. “I was happy. I was shocked. I really can’t express how I felt. I was so happy I made it there in time. It was, ‘Wow, I have a son. It’s a little me.’”

Travis might have missed the arrival of T.J. if not for his caring girlfriend.

“I didn’t want him to miss the game,” Covell said, “(but) I was starting to get nervous he might not make it. My mom kept trying to get hold of him. I didn’t start pushing until he was close, until he was about 10 minutes away. Travis got there at 9:30 (p.m.). T.J. was born at 9:47 (p.m.).”

Travis made a solemn vow as he wiped away tears of joy at the hospital.

“I said I’d make a change in how fathers have been in the history of my family. I made that promise I’d be there for T.J. every day. Since Day One, I have been,” Travis said in an interview with the Journal-World conducted two weeks after T.J.’s second birthday.

Releford holds no ill will against his own dad.

In fact, he speaks with Tracy Releford almost every day — by phone. Tracy has spent the last 20 years in Crossroads Correction Center in Cameron, Mo., where he is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder.

“He’s seen me play. He gets to watch me on TV, but he’s never physically been there,” the 22-year-old Releford said of Tracy, who recently had his annual parole hearing and still has hope he’ll be released in time to see Travis play a game in Allen Fieldhouse and see Travis’ brother, Trevor, play a game at the University of Alabama, where he’s a junior point guard.

“I have a son I would hope one day would grow up and play basketball, too, and I want to coach him and help him out along the way. It means a lot to have a son, especially from how I grew up not having my dad around,” Travis added. “My mom had the same problem. She didn’t have her dad there. Through our generation, it’s been like that. I wanted to make sure I could change that. I’m there every day for my son. I see him every day, and I’m here to watch him grow and teach him.”

Proud papa

Releford, a 6-foot-6 senior out of Roeland Park’s Bishop Miege High, lives in Jayhawker Towers with roommate/teammate Christian Garrett. However, Travis spends most of his free time with his girlfriend and son at their apartment, conveniently located in Lawrence.

Kansas' Travis Releford bathes son T.J.

Kansas' Travis Releford bathes son T.J.

Travis understandably is proud of his son.

“He just went to the doctor’s (office). He was 99 or 98 percentile in height and 92 or something in weight. The chances of him being tall are very good,” Travis said, noting Jennifer, a KU senior, is 5-foot-10, Jennifer’s dad 6-5, Travis’ mom 5-7 and Travis’ dad, 5-9.

“He likes sports. He’s throwing balls, kicking balls, hitting them with whatever he can find. He’s all over the place,” Travis added.

Though Travis can’t remember his son’s first words — “I think it was ‘da-da,” he said — T.J.’s vocabulary is definitely growing.

“He sees me in pictures. He’ll go point to them and say, ‘Da-da,’ or he’ll see the Jayhawk bird and be like, ‘Jayhawk, Jayhawk,’” Releford said. “I think he knows the Rock Chalk Chant. We’ve been teaching him that since he was a few months old. He was just listening. Then all of a sudden he started mumbling and getting clearer. I think his favorite part is the end when they say, ‘Whoo.’ He looks forward to that.”

T.J. attends KU’s home games and sits in a section with family members of the Jayhawk players located on the lower level, southwest bleachers.

Jennifer and T.J. usually sit in the same row as Travis’ mom, Venita, who lives in Lawrence and works at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, plus Travis’ two sisters (Tamara and Katelin) and brother June, who is a sophomore on Free State High’s hoops team.

“He’s waved, pointed, actually tried to get down on the court,” Travis said of T.J.

Proud of papa

T.J. has become quite a fan of his daddy, who is a fifth-year senior starter who averages 12.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while also playing a role as the Jayhawks’ defensive stopper.

“Every time we go to a game and they go to the free-throw line, he says, ‘Whoosh,’” Covell said. “He does the cheers and chants. Every time we drive by the fieldhouse, he knows it’s the fieldhouse and says, ‘Jayhawk.’”

T.J. Releford plays video games with his dad, Travis Releford.

T.J. Releford plays video games with his dad, Travis Releford.

Jennifer says that T.J. is a “brilliant” child who looks like he’s 4, not 2.

‘“Eat’ is one of his favorite words because that’s all he does. He likes noodles, junk food, juice, candy. He eats almost all the junk I eat. His favorite food is probably waffles or mac and cheese,” Releford said.

Travis actually is a softie in supplying T.J. what he wants/needs, says Releford’s Towers roommate.

“It’s cool to watch ‘Trav’ spend time, hang out with T.J. when he’s not playing,” Garrett said. “T.J. is always around, making a mess, having fun. Travis is a great dad. He really wants to be a great father to T.J. and is doing a good job being there, showing love. I think when the season is over, he’s going to experience a whole new level what it’s like to be a dad. He’s growing up fast in it. He’s doing well.”

Garrett said the funniest thing, “is a lot of times I’m not there, and T.J. sleeps in my bed. So the little guy is in my room. We joke that T.J. is taking my spot as his roommate.

“Sometimes I feel like an uncle. I think everybody on the team feels like an uncle to the cutest kid I’ve ever seen. He’s so cute and cool. Everyone says, ‘That’s our little nephew,’” Garrett added.

‘A special thing to see’

One of Releford’s mentors — his AAU coach L.J. Goolsby of KC Run GMC — says he simply loves watching Travis and T.J. together.

“It’s a special thing to see,” Goolsby said. “Travis loves T.J. and wants to be a role model for him, especially as he (T.J.) gets older. Unfortunately, (Travis) didn’t have that father in his life. He doesn’t want that to be the case with T.J. It’s awesome to see how he treats him, acts around him, the way they act around each other.”

T.J. already has bonded with another child of a KU player — Amara Grace Tharpe, who lives in Worcester Mass., but visits her dad, KU sophomore Naadir Tharpe, from time to time.

Travis, left, and T.J. Releford share a father-son bonding moment.

Travis, left, and T.J. Releford share a father-son bonding moment.

“He calls her, ‘Baby.’ He knows she’s just a baby,” Releford said of the 1-year-old.

“He takes care of her. He gives her her bottle, binkie,” Covell added.

Travis said his own son inspires him and has made him consider his own future.

The plan is to play in the NBA or overseas after this season, and after his playing days are finished to pursue coaching as a career.

“There are so many good things. I can’t point out anything bad about being a dad,” said Releford, who has teamed with his girlfriend — a former KC Winnetonka High basketball, tennis and soccer standout — to make sure their class schedules allow somebody to be with T.J. at all times.

As students not yet in the workforce, they can’t afford the cost of day care.

“Some people think, ‘Ah, he (Travis) is in school and has a kid, and that could be the worst thing.’ I don’t think it’s the worst thing that could ever happen, especially the great situation I’m in with his mom and the way I handled it,” Travis said. “It hasn’t taken anything away from school or me performing on the court. I feel this has made me want to work harder so once I leave here I know he and my family will be taken care of.”

Comments

Nikki May 1 year, 11 months ago

I saw all three of them at Dillons one day and thought they were the most adorable family. But Travis, please. please, please, teach him there is no woo in the Rock Chalk chant.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

Sounds like young T.J. should be on K.U.'s recruiting list pretty soon. Travis has been a real asset for this team, a great player, a great leader. Wishing him and his family nothing but the best.

bangaranggerg 1 year, 11 months ago

Yeah right like we'd put someone on the team just because they were someone important's son.. preposterous.

FarneyMac 1 year, 11 months ago

Wow...THAT was your takeaway from this? Get over yourself.

Thomas Bryce 1 year, 11 months ago

I agree with Autie."If you like it,You Should put a ring on it!" Beyonce has it right.I wish them well and hope they have a Spectacular wedding and go somewhere Warm for the Honeymoon.

mom_of_three 1 year, 11 months ago

and you think the libs want you to believe something different? way to bring politics into it.
marriage is always great, but it doesn't matter if there is marriage if the parties don't believe in commitment (ever heard of divorce?). Commitment is commitment, ring on the finger or not.

mom_of_three 1 year, 11 months ago

"Libs" believe in the sanctity of marriage, including all americans. We dont pick and choose

Keith 1 year, 11 months ago

I believe in the sanctity of marriage at least as much as Newt Gingrich does.

Patricia Davis 1 year, 11 months ago

Travis has always been one of my favorites. It's the way he has struggled with adversity and has come back stronger. Blessing to Travis' beautiful son who will know the great love of his father and mother. All the best.

introversion 1 year, 11 months ago

All this nuclear/non-nuclear talk aside, as a spectator, I've always had a hunch that Travis was a man of good character, although I've known little about his personal life. This is a great article is not only confirmation of my hunch, but also a great example of positive reporting for the LJW.

As a man who also fathered a child at 22 in the midst of my college career, I have seen the challenges brought with it, and the good fortune of being able to meet those challenges. I wonder what might have become of me if I hadn't had someone to continue pushing forward for.

Travis, thanks for exhibiting good Jayhawk spirit on and off the court.

oakfarm 1 year, 11 months ago

Some people who seem to admire this arrangement don't know or see the difference between a "baby daddy" and a father. The statistics are not political and it is not a matter of 'commitment': No father means a tremendous increase in the likelihood of jail, drug use, truancy, and dropping out. Face the facts. Happy talk is not a substitute for reality, just because 'reality shows' seem to have become a substitute for reality.

introversion 1 year, 11 months ago

I completely agree. It's great that Travis takes such an interest in providing for those that depend on him.

jonnyboy 1 year, 11 months ago

I adore Travis but I am SO disappointed in both he and his girlfriend that they think it is okay to not be married. Travis, if you and the mom are so committed, MAKE IT LEGAL. Make your son legal. (1) You can still have a huge expensive second wedding if the pros come through! (2) I think any child would rather have his parents get divorced than to have to grow up knowing they didn't care enough to marry. (3) If you're worried about money, get a pre-nup! (4) How does ANYone get pregnant accidentally these days...give me a break!!! "Marriage is .....no longer needed.... noted above here.... What a bunch of crap!! It's just another example of how women are still under a man's thumb... If a man won't marry you and you're having a baby, your troubles have JUST started!!! Kids aren't toys. Don't use them to try to hang on to a man.

Deb Engstrom 1 year, 10 months ago

Maybe she won't marry him. Ever consider that????

UltimateGrownup 1 year, 10 months ago

Maybe she won't marry him? Then she's still keeping her options open, still shopping around for a man. In not marrying, he's not committed, still keeping options open. And the kid gets to watch them shop en route to forming his own messed up family. Jonnyboy is right, they need to get married. Marriage means you're committed, which Travis and Jennifer are not. BTW, Diana Ross' "Love Child" is going through my mind.

Thomas Bryce 1 year, 10 months ago

Only 28 out of 164 comments are Listed. Hmm. Interesting. Did that many people get removed for Violating Policy?

Jesse Newell 1 year, 10 months ago

For some reason, when stories are posted on LJWorld.com and KUsports.com, the comments from both sides are getting added to the comments total on the LJWorld side. Not sure why that is, but I can tell you that 100-plus comments haven't been removed. That would be quite a mess ...

Jesse Newell
KUsports.com online editor

kujimmyc 1 year, 10 months ago

I became a father a couple of months before my 21st birthday. It was a challenge. My wife and I were not married at that time...we actually married 3.5 years later after our twins were born. I agree that marriage is a better situation in which to raise kids but I am going from my own experience. I will not hold it against anyone else as to what they choose to do. I just feel that marriage provides a more stable environment than the boyfriend/girlfriend roles do. All that being said, our first son just graduated from....say it.....KU...this past December from School of Engineering. We have one more son going to...say it....KU and look forward to his success. I also look forward to the b-ball team having success tonight...say it with me folks......ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK....GO KU! The best of luck Travis regardless of how you pursue your role as a father. I believe you have started out quite well. Love the kid!

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