Towson University junior running back Darius Victor came into the 2015 season primed for success. Victor played an important role as a true freshman in 2013, spelling All-American running back Terrance West, and emerged as the starter a year later, rushing for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014.
Heading into this season with 1,934 career rushing yards, Victor was already among the top 10 rushers in school history. The 5-foot-8, 210-pound running back may have an opportunity to create a legacy similar to that of West, the program's all-time leading rusher, if he and his teammates can elevate their play.
Tigers head coach Rob Ambrose said Victor still has his work cut out for him.
"I think there's one thing missing, and it's sorely missing," Ambrose said. "Terrance was part of a team with the most wins in a three-year period since we've been Division I, and Darius hasn't. His time as a starter, he's got some decent statistics, but we don't have as many wins."
Ambrose sees the supporting cast as one of the key differences.
"Now, don't get me wrong," Ambrose said. "[Victor is] a real good ball player. But until there's an offensive line that can get close to what that offensive line was [in 2013], and as many wins as we got behind it, right now, he's just a really good ball player."
For Victor, his focus heading into the 2015 season was winning more games. Despite his personal success as the starting back, the Tigers finished the 2014 campaign with a 4-8 record.
"I have to just become a better leader, a better football player, a better person on and off the field," Victor said. "The main goal is just to win more games, be more productive as an offense. Our goal is just to be better than last year, a lot better."
The nonconference portion of the Tigers' schedule showed improvement for the team and for Victor. The Tigers went 2-1 against opponents outside the Colonial Athletic Association, dropping a closely contested game at East Carolina Sept. 5 before winning back-to-back home games against St. Francis (Pa.) Sept. 12 and Holy Cross Sept. 19.
Victor turned in a career performance against Holy Cross, registering 202 rushing yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead score during a 29-26, come-from-behind win. That performance also vaulted Victor up the school's career rushing yards list, placing him at No. 6.
Still, Victor didn't allow himself to get caught up in the moment, and he remains focused on doing what he can to help the team win.
"I just run every play and try to make the most of it," Victor said. "I'm excited someone told me I had 202 [rushing yards], and I was just like, ‘Wow.' That's the first time at 200 [rushing yards], so hopefully it's not my last."
Victor has worked hard to develop his game during his time at Towson. After his freshman season, Victor focused on adding muscle to his frame, knowing his workload would increase after West's early departure for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Through the first five games of 2015, Victor has reached the end zone seven times.
"I like scoring touchdowns," Victor said. "Whatever is the fastest way to the end zone, so if that means I have to go around them, I'm going to do that. I have to go through them, I'm going to do that. As long as we score and we win, I'm OK with it."
As Victor has continued improving, he attributes that success to his mental approach.
"You never want to be complacent with where you're at," Victor said. "And just trying to make the best out of every play, I think that's what helped me out. I never lose excitement for this game."
Victor's production has slowed after an ankle sprain sidelined him during the first quarter of Towson's 17-13 loss to Elon Sept. 26. But if Victor can stay healthy, Ambrose said there is a possibility he could go down as the one of the best running backs in program history.
"You think about what Terrance did his first year -- he was [the CAA Offensive] Rookie of the Year," Ambrose said. "His second year was good, but not great. And it's really what he did his third year, when we won games and went to the [Football Championship Subdivision] national championship game, where Terrance solidified his career at Towson."
Like West, Victor also earned CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, but the true measurement of his achievements will come down to wins and losses.
"Look at Jerry Rice," Ambrose said. "He's supposed to be the best football player that's ever played, but if those teams didn't win, is he the best that ever played?
"Darius has a year and a half to go. What Darius Victor does, and what the team does, that will determine how well he is perceived historically. If we win a lot of games and go to the playoffs, he's certainly in the mix."