For those looking for a taste of fame through social media, going viral may never come. It often happens at the most unexpected times, and it takes more than just wanting it. It takes capturing a pure moment, the backing of an audience that has made a connect with the subject, and most importantly, a bit of luck.
For Travis Morris, business major and Fresno State marching band member, all the components of viral status came together following a video of him playing his cymbals with reckless abandon during a mid-November Fresno State football game.
In hindsight, many could see how the video taken could be appealing, so there is no surprise that the video has now accumulated nearly 325,000 views and 6,000 likes on Twitter alone.
But at the time, the video didn’t seem like much, and even to Morris, the possibility of his video going viral and becoming what it did never crossed his mind.
“I did not expect it at all. When I first saw the video get released, I was like, ‘OK, this is pretty cool,’” Morris said. “But when I saw Bleacher Report pick it up and then I saw other news channels pick it up I was like, ‘Woah, this is bigger than I thought.”
As the video began to take off, Morris got an unexpected call while at work and realized that his video would be shown to a national audience the next morning.
“I got a call from “Good Morning America” (GMA) at work the day before I appeared on the show, and I remember telling my manager that I was on the phone with them and her telling me, ‘Go take your 10 (minute break),’” Morris said. “They told me they would like to do a story on me. On the morning of, I woke up at 6 a.m. to make sure I was ready to watch it, and I was in shock.”
Even with his early success, his true personality came into question and his persona of the ultra-enthusiastic, lovable hype-man left a few doubters unsure whether all of this energy was real or a façade.
“When people see me, they will ask me, ‘Is this real?’ I am the same way with everyone, with my parents and friends — being a hype-man is just me,” Morris said. “When it came to the video, someone happened to be at the right place at the right time capturing something I do all the time.”
After his GMA debut, Morris felt love and support from his hometown bestowed upon him, and after a grassroots social media campaign by friends, family and strangers alike, his campaign reached its culmination on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
The dream for Morris to make the show was a long shot, but the people supporting him made a push to get him on the show.
“It was amazing. Just to see the whole community back me and say, ‘Hey, let’s get him on the show and let’s have someone represent Fresno,’” Morris said. “That was huge for me to see that Fresno would back up one of their own, because they said, ‘He is representing us.’”
Morris’ dream would soon become a reality as a representative of the show would contact him following his GMA appearance. He was set to make an appearance, but there was one caveat: he could not tell anyone.
“I remember them telling me, ‘You can’t say anything. You have to keep it on the low,’” Morris said. “And that was so hard for me because people would keep asking me throughout the month what the deal was with “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and couldn’t say anything.”
While many people were under the impression that Morris had failed at getting onto the show, he was actually having Facetime calls with the show’s staff a month prior to his Jan. 20 appearance.
The plan for Morris was for him to fly down to the show, do an interview with one of the assistants, and make an appearance in the crowd during the show. The plan was not what he had expected it to be, but Morris said he was grateful to just be in that position.
“I felt like we got here Fresno,” Morris said. “We are at ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show.’”
Little did Morris know that there was more in store for him than he had imagined. What he thought was a video shoot was actually test prep for the interview that Ellen would be conducting with him. So when Morris sat down for his interview in December 2019, the experience was genuine disbelief.
“The whole experience from beginning to end was just crazy,” Morris said.
Very few can match the energy that Morris exudes, but if there was one person that could go head-to-head with him in the energy department, it was Ellen.
“Ellen’s energy was everything I dreamed of, that and more. I was just so excited to be there right next to her,” Morris said.
“I was kind of nervous, but at the same time I knew I was there for a bigger purpose,” Morris said. “I thought of it as it is not me sitting here, it is Fresno sitting here. So, I had to represent the best way I could.”
Riding high after achieving what he set out to do, Morris made a happenstance run-in with Jamie Foxx, who was taping an interview for the show. Morris received a few words of wisdom from the legendary actor.
“He was a big supporter,” Morris said. “He said, ‘You keep doing what you are doing and you are going to do great things for your community. That was huge for me.”
With the goal of making it onto Ellen in the rearview, it could leave many people wondering if this was as far as one viral video could take Morris. But he is still doing everything in his power to catapult himself and build his brand.
“This has all been a big promotion. I knew from the beginning that if I released that Tweet, this was the right time to do it,” Morris said. “I knew if there was ever a time to capitalize on it, that was now.”
Morris is now in talks to appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Beyond that, he is looking to get involved with local businesses, including Me-n-Ed’s Pizzeria, which has commented on nearly every one of his posts.
Morris has also put his business background to good use by starting his own merchandise line, Boogie Mode, capitalizing on the exposure that he has received. The brand is a performing arts-based line, and he says that sales have seen an increase since his Ellen appearance.
“Any time I am in a zone and locked in, that is my boogie mode,” Morris said. “I see it as a clothing brand for the performing arts. You have Nike and Adidas that are geared towards athletes, but anyone can wear them. That is the same thing with my brand.”
But even with all the national media attention, TV appearances and his own merchandise, Morris understands that he could not have gotten to the heights he has reached in the last month without the support of the Fresno State community.
“Fresno State is very family orientated; my dad graduated from this school. That is why I picked this school over every other school,” Morris said. “The Bulldog marching band was the first ones to take in my personality and tell me to be myself. Do what you want to do and represent our school.”
As Morris’ last few years at school start to take shape, he will continue to perform for the Fresno State marching band. He hopes that what he has done in the past month will inspire people to open themselves up to opportunities.
“For myself, I am taking the path less traveled. My path was cymbals, but I let people know that their time is short and it is going to go by very quickly,” Morris said. “You want to cherish all the moments. Get involved at this school because there is so much you can do, and you are going to love it.”