Following a memorable run to a national championship game that fell just short during the 2013 season, the Towson University football program was in a state of transition.
All-American running back Terrance West had departed for the NFL Draft, along with a majority of the team's senior-laden roster. That offseason put a lot of pressure on head coach Rob Ambrose, who basically had to start rebuilding his program piece-by-piece.
In spring 2014, Ambrose was asked if any new leaders had emerged on his roster, despite the lack of experience on his team. The first name out of Ambrose's mouth was not one of his nine seniors or 33 upperclassmen. It was his true sophomore running back, the man who would take the baton from West.
"I think Darius Victor is stepping into that role at a very young age," Ambrose said at the time. "It's part of his personality."
When Victor took over for West in 2014, he didn't just take the starting running back role. He became the new face of Towson football.
For West, now the program's all-time leading rusher with 4,849 yards and 84 touchdowns, accomplishments on the field made him, colloquially speaking, "the Man" -- the player who could most singularly impact the success of the team.
As sensational as his play was, West was never voted a captain by his teammates. Victor has been an off-the-field leader at Towson since he took over, climbing the ranks as one of the university's all-time leading rushers. Victor finished his junior season with 2,955 yards, good for fourth all-time at Towson.
Heading into the 2016 season, Victor is enthused by the possibilities for his individual performance and the team's.
"I feel like, as long as I stay healthy, I have a great group of guys in front of me on the offensive line," Victor said. "We're all experienced; we all play well together. If we all play as well as we're capable of playing, good things will happen. My success and our success as a run game and offense means team success, and that's the ultimate goal."
Victor added a notch to his personal resume during the 2016 season opener against South Florida Sept. 3, as he eclipsed the 3,000-yard career rushing mark with 70 yards and two touchdowns during the Tigers' 56-20 loss. Following the game, Ambrose said he doesn't see his senior tailback slowing down anytime soon.
"I would like to say it means a lot, but he is not done yet," Ambrose said. "He just keeps on going. It is not so much the rushing, that is part of it, and that is impressive. He earns the respect of the opposing coaches and players."
But Victor's strengths do not solely lie on his ability to run the ball. His complete package has earned the respect of his coaches and teammates.
"You watch a couple times tonight where he blocks like the best fullback you have ever seen," Ambrose said. "... He is the outlet -- check-down guy that isn't even supposed to be there -- but he is still making plays."
Even if Victor does not close in on his predecessor's top spot as Towson's leading rusher, his contributions as a player and team leader will give Victor his own unique spot in the Towson football history books.
Nicknamed "Vito" for the fictitious Vito Corleone, the title character of Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" epic, Victor's story at Towson will go down as a tale of a beloved teammate, effective leader and terrifying opponent.
"Guys like that, you love to play with and you love to play for," Ambrose said. "I know the offense loves playing for him, and the defense loves playing with him. He makes the program better."
Issue 225: September 2016