When Bill remarried, Travis served as best man -- via speakerphone from Los Angeles the day of a USC game. For a time, Travis had a turbulent relationship with his stepmother, Teresa. After she became pregnant, however, his attitude shifted.
The expansion of the family softened the dynamic between Travis and Bill.
Bill had always provided his son with an affluent life (a new pickup truck each year, for example), but sometimes, his rigors grated.
"My dad, he used to be pretty tough on me to motivate me," Travis told a Times reporter his senior year at USC. "I don't know if that's the right way, but it worked. But, gosh, no. I wouldn't do it to my son."
After a road game against Oregon, a game Bill attended, Travis came to Greatwood's office and broke into tears. "No matter what I do, it's never enough to please my father," he said.
No one who was familiar with them, however, doubted that a special bond connected Travis and Bill. Barry, who came to know both of them well, thought that although Bill's methods sometimes shook Travis' confidence, "that boy was the sun, the moon and the stars to his dad."
On the T-shirt Travis wore the day he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL, he wrote, "Dad, Thank you for your support. Without it, my dreams may not have come true. Love always." On the No. 71 Falcons uniform jersey he wore the day Atlanta upset the Green Bay Packers in a playoff game in January 2003, he wrote above the "1," "Dad, you have always been this number in my heart."
As a Trojan, Travis fell into a long line of standout offensive linemen. The difference was that many of his predecessors played when USC, which had won five national titles since 1962, was an eminent power.
Travis, however, was a Trojan when the program was in eclipse. In fact, the Trojans' offense dropped to the cellar of the Pac-10 conference in total yards rushing, a direct reflection of offensive line play. USC lost 22 games during Travis' four years.
Every loss was anguishing for Travis. He was merciless on himself when he made mistakes, and unsettled by the thought that an opponent might be his equal or better. Such reverses flogged him to work harder in the weight room and on the practice field.
He had his shortcomings. He was "high cut" -- his V-shaped torso making him somewhat top-heavy. He was a devastating run blocker but had to work at pass blocking in a more upright position. At the big-time college level, brute strength alone didn't always suffice.
Still, Travis' achievements were exceptional. According to the professional sports information agency The Sports Xchange, he played in (and started) all 48 games as a Trojan, participating in 3,218 plays. He allowed a total of only 11 quarterback sacks, one in his senior year. He delivered 31 blocks that led to touchdowns (12 as a senior) and 332 "key" blocks or "pancakes," the latter being instances when he knocked an opponent flat.
As a senior, he was named a second-team All-American by SportsPage.com and CBS Sportsline, and third-team All-American by The Sporting News. He was a unanimous choice for the All-Pac-10 conference first team and won the Morris Trophy, which is given annually to the conference's best offensive lineman.
In 2000, he was drafted into the NFL, the 37th player overall to be taken, and the fourth offensive lineman. The Falcons signed him to a four-year contract worth $3.3 million.
The odds against a player making it to the NFL are overwhelming. According to the National Football League Players Assn., of the 100,000 high school seniors who play football in any year, only 215 -- 0.2% -- will ever see their names on an NFL roster. Moreover, the average career of a pro lasts only about 3 1/2 years.
Into this unpromising calculus entered Travis, his size and strength no longer unique, his opponents uniformly faster, more agile and, playing for large paychecks, more ferocious than even a big-time collegiate player was accustomed to.
The Atlanta Falcons had been to the Super Bowl after the 1998 season but won only five of 16 games the next year. Much of the blame was placed on the offensive line. The selection of Travis reflected the team's determination to improve it.
Travis won a starting position in his rookie year, and his hard education in the pro game began in earnest.