An interesting journey for A&M WR Labhart

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- When it comes to football, Texas A&M receiver Travis Labhart comes from humble beginnings.

Whether it's his high school alma mater, Whitesboro (Texas) High School, or his journey from a walk-on with the Aggies to a women's basketball practice squad player to a scholarship football player, it has certainly been interesting.

But it's a journey filled with hard work for the 5-foot-9, 182-pound Labhart.

Last week in the Aggies' win against Sam Houston State, Labhart caught his first career touchdown as an Aggie, a 14-yard pass from true freshman quarterback Kenny Hill in the third quarter of a 65-28 win over Sam Houston State. He also served as the team's primary punt returner and is listed as the starting punt returner for Texas A&M this week, when the No. 6 Aggies host No. 1 Alabama at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Kyle Field.

In high school, Labhart played for a program that had no history of making the postseason. Whitesboro made its first playoff appearance in school history, which spans more than 100 years, in 2011, according to the Dallas Morning News, after Labhart was already at A&M.

Labhart walked on to the Aggies football team but also had a brief stint as practice squad player for the then-defending NCAA champion women's basketball team that fall.

"He was a good player," women's basketball coach Gary Blair said. "He was a good solid kid and we've had some men's practice players over the years and he was one of them."

Blair noted that Labhart was only on the practice squad for a couple of months before returning to the football field.

In 2012, Labhart appeared in three games as a junior but he has made significant strides this season. Despite breaking his collarbone during one of the Aggies' spring football scrimmages, Labhart recovered and had a strong preseason training camp in August and solidified himself a spot in the receiver rotation. He earned the coaching staff's trust enough to return punts.

Against the Bearkats last week, he returned two punts for 30 yards, including one of 18 yards.

"I thought his decision-making was pretty good back there," Sumlin said. "He's back there as our punt returner because he's demonstrated the ability for us to trust him deep. He made a nice catch during the game, a couple of them.

"He's a guy who has worked like crazy and is just a team favorite. Our team appreciates a guy like that who comes to work, wasn't on scholarship, fought his way there and is reaping the rewards of all his hard work and is helping us win."

Labhart, now a senior, was one of four walk-ons to earn a scholarship. Sumlin announced the four during a team meeting before the season began. Now, Labhart could have a chance to contribute in one of the biggest games in Texas A&M history.

"I talked about it a couple weeks ago about the guys that we put on scholarship since I've been here," Sumlin said. "I think it gives our walk-on program credibility that guys that come here and do what we ask them to do, and we give them a chance to get on the field and perform, they're guys that can help us win and earn a scholarship and he's one of those guys."