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As Utah's quarterback, Travis Wilson has tried to rally the Utes to wins all season, now it is his teammates' turn to rally around him.
Wilson's coaches and teammates all voiced their support and concern for the sophomore following Monday's announcement that a pre-existing condition found during post-concussion exams has forced Wilson to prematurely end his season and possibly his career.
"He is a tough, very competitive kid who is very upset by this," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We are going to miss him but the most important thing is his long-term health."
Wilson suffered the concussion against Arizona State on Nov. 9, but didn't exhibit any symptoms of a concussion until the following day. The ensuing exams revealed a previous injury to an intracranial artery, according to a statement released by team physician David Petron. The intracranial arteries supply blood to the brain.
"We do not believe it is life threatening," Petron said in the statement. "There is a possibility he could play football in the future if it remains stable. It will be further evaluated with follow-up testing in approximately three months."
Wilson finishes the season with a 4-5 mark as a starter and 7-9 in his career.
He played in all 21 games since 2012 and started the last 16 after taking over for Jordan Wynn, who was forced to retire in September of 2012 due to recurring shoulder injuries.
Sophomore Adam Schulz, who originally came to Utah as a walk-on, will start Utah's remaining games at Washington State on Saturday and against Colorado on Nov. 30 while freshman Conner Manning who the Utes still hope they can redshirt moves into the No. 2 spot.
Saturday's 44-21 loss to Oregon was the first career start for Schulz. He went 13-of-30 for 181 yards and a touchdown.
Schulz said he spoke with Wilson following the game and gave the former starter his support.
"I told him if he needed anything I am here for him," Schulz said. "When Jordan [Wynn] and Jon [Hays] left, they left the idea that all the quarterbacks are tight and we have each other's backs. Back in spring ball it was a healthy competition between us, but we've stuck together."
Wilson's mother, JoMarie, said she appreciated the support Utah's coaching staff and players were giving her son.
"They talk about how the football team is a family, and it has been just that for Travis," she said from the family's home in San Clemente, Calif. "Travis has worked so hard and it's good to know he has that family behind him 100 percent."
The medical revelation brings an abrupt halt to a season that started out as a promising one for Wilson but disintegrated in recent weeks.
Wilson led the Utes to a 3-1 start this season, throwing nine touchdown passes and three interceptions.
Wilson threw six interceptions against UCLA, although Whittingham blamed other circumstances and players for the picks. However, the season didn't get any better for Wilson following Utah's upset of Stanford.
An injured hand led to struggles against Arizona, where he was replaced by Schulz. The injury also may have affected his play in Utah's 19-3 loss at USC.
Wilson finished the season 133-of-237 for 1,827 yards and 16 touchdowns to go with 16 interceptions. He also rushed 81 times for 386 yards and five touchdowns.
Utah tight end Jake Murphy said he spoke to Wilson "about life," this weekend.
"People think football is life and it isn't," he said. "Travis is going to move on and get older and we don't even know if he can play or not, but we have to keep encouraging him and that is what we will do."
Wilson was handling the news the best he could, and wants to remain involved in the program, Whittingham said.
"He has a competitive nature and it's hard on him," he said. "I met with him and his father yesterday and we talked at length, and it's just a situation where he is disappointed."
Wilson's medical condition continues an unfortunate streak for the Utes, who haven't had a quarterback make it through a season healthy since Brian Johnson, now the team's offensive co-coordinator, did so in 2008.
"We've looked at everything we are doing to see if there is something we are doing to put them in harm's way and evaluated everything," Whittingham said of the quarterbacks. "We've looked at everything we are doing over and over to make sure there is no error on our part as coaches, but we can't come up with anything. That is the way the ball bounces and things just happen."
Utah quarterbacks since Brian Johnson
The last quarterback to make it through a season healthy for the Utes was Brian Johnson, who capped his career in 2008 by leading Utah to an undefeated season. Since then the Utes have had a series of injured players or misses at the position. Here is a look at some of the many would-be quarterbacks the Utes have had. Others, such as receiver DeVonte Christopher and safety Brian Blechen, were recruited as quarterbacks but were moved to other positions early in their career:
Corbin Louks (2007-2008) • He played in 10 games in 2007 and nine in 2008 as the Utes used him in a special, wildcat-style package. In fall of 2009, Louks fell behind Terrance Cain and Jordan Wynn and was moved to safety. He opted to transfer to Nevada, where he played receiver.
Chad Manis (2007-2010) • Recruited as a quarterback, Manis redshirted in 2007 then made brief appearances in three games in 2008 against Utah State, Weber State and Wyoming, finishing 3-of-4 passing for 24 yards. He was moved to defense for the final two years of his career.
Terrance Cain (2009-10) • Cain went 9-2 as a starter, playing in 22 total games and threw for 2,327 yards and 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. While he was sufficient at running the offense, he wasn't good enough to keep Jordan Wynn from taking over the position in 2009.
Jordan Wynn (2009-12) • Wynn replaced Cain as the starter for the last five games of the 2009 season and earned the Poinsettia Bowl MVP that year. Unfortunately injuries prevented him from being the quarterback the Utes imagined he would be. Wynn retired on Sept. 10, 2012 after suffering his fourth shoulder surgery in three years. He inished his career with a 14-7 record and played in 22 games total and ranked eighth in career passing (4,637 yards) and completed 381-of-632 attempts.
Griff Robles (2009-11) • The local standout from Spanish Fork, Robles was recruited as a quarterback when he signed with Utah in 2007. He returned after a mission and redshirted in 2009. He participated in four games at quarterback in 2010 and three in 2011. The Utes experimented with him at linebacker for the 2011 season, but moved him back to the offense due to injuries. Probably seeing the writing on the wall, Robles transferred to Dixie State College where he is playing quarterback.
Tyler Shreve (2011) • Shreve signed with Utah in 2010 but didn't enroll with Utah until the spring semester of 2011 after a skirmish with his high school baseball coach led to a suspension by the Utes. Listed as Wynn's backup, Shreve announced in December of 2011 he was transferring to Riverside Community College in California.
Jon Hays (2011-12) • Brought in as an emergency backup to Jordan Wynn, the junior college transfer played more than anyone anticipated he might, participating in 17 of Utah's 25 games in his career and starting 12. He went 7-5 as a starter, including a Sun Bowl victory over Georgia Tech in 2011.
Utah's quarterback future
Here is a look at Utah's QBs, now and in the future:
Adam Schulz, 6-1, 205, So., Muskego, Wis. • The one-time walk-on is currently Utah's starting quarterback. … He was 13-of-30 for 181 yards and a touchdown with one interception in Utah's loss to Oregon. … He has played in four games this year and one last year. … Is known to be a strong team leader.
Conner Manning, 6-1, 205, Fr., Lake Forest, Calif. • Currently listed as the backup behind Adam Schulz. … Isn't as good of a runner as some of the other quarterbacks but known for his accurate passing. … Broke Matt Barkley's Orange County record for single-season passing yards as a junior in 2011, completing 327-of-527 passes for 4,219 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Brandon Cox, 6-2, 220, Fr., Pasadena, Calif. • Currently third on Utah's QB depth chart. … Played in just two high school games in 2012 due to a foot injury. … Known to be very athletic but has also worked to improve his arm strength.
Micah Thomas, 6-0, 178, Fr., Houston, Texas • Has not played this year. … The Utes have experimented with him on defense in some practices. … Known for his speed and athleticism, he passed for 849 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 734 yards and 10 touchdowns on 92 carries as a high school senior.
Donovan Isom, 6-5, 235, Destrehan, Louisiana • Isom committed to the Utes in July as part of the 2014 signing class. Now more than ever it will be a priority for Utah to keep his allegiance. … Isom also had offers from South Alabama, Miami, Tulane, Louisiana Tech and Southern University. Destrehan is 10-1 and moved to the regional round of the Class 5A playoffs on Friday after winning its game over Terrebonne 44-0. Isom was 20-of-28 for 278 yards and three touchdowns in the win and threw only his second interception of the year in the game.
Chase Hansen, 6-3, 220, Highland, Utah • Currently serving a church mission and won't play for the Utes until the 2015 season since he is expected to return in either December 2014 or January 2015. … Signed with the Utes in 2012 and was impressive in spring ball then suffered a shoulder injury in the fall. … 2011 Parade All-American.
Travis Wilson's career
From • San Clemente, Calif.
Vitals • 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, sophomore.
Record • 7-9 as a starter.
Of note • Became the fourth Ute true freshman to start at quarterback since the NCAA restored freshman eligibility in 1972. … Played in all 12 games as a true freshman and started the last seven, completing 128-of-204 for 1,311 yards and seven touchdowns with six interceptions. … Got his first career start against UCLA in 2012, completing 23-of-33 for 220 yards, rushed 11 times for 10 yards and made a 22-yard catch in the loss. … Was rated as the 11th-best overall quarterback by Rivals.com and 17th by Scout.com as a high school senior.