Published November 07. 2013 4:00AM
New London - It was Derek Victory's first game as the starting quarterback at the Coast Guard Academy and he had just been sacked, convincingly enough to make the Parents' Weekend crowd at Cadet Memorial Field shudder.
Not only did Victory, the 18-year-old freshman from Weston, Fla., pop back up, he threw a touchdown on the next play against Nichols, 17 yards to Collis Brown, in what was Coast Guard's first win of the season.
Not that coach Bill George was surprised. Assistant coach Dana Fleischmann had gone on a recruiting trip once to see Victory when he was practicing with a team of Broward County all-stars, including players headed to Divisions I and II. Fleischmann reported the toughness of the 5-foot-9, 165-pound recruit.
"They were huge," Victory said of the opposing lineman he was facing. "They were nice but they were really big. ... That play (against Nichols), the next play was a touchdown, so it looked good. I get hit around a lot. That's why I wear pads."
Coast Guard (3-5 overall, 3-2 New England Football Conference) is coming off a bye week and will meet first-place Salve Regina (6-2, 5-0) at noon Saturday in Newport, R.I.
So far, Victory, who earned the starting job in the fourth game of the season and league opener against Nichols, is 137-for-229 passing (59.8 percent) for 1,313 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. He averages 218.8 passing yards per game.
It was Victory's dream to play football at the Coast Guard Academy and he's gotten to live it. He's missed practice time to study calculus and chemistry, both of which he says he has under control now, and still found a way to climb his way from fourth-string quarterback to starter.
"It's really cool," Victory said Wednesday with a smile, asked what he's learned. "It's definitely a really neat experience. I've been watching a lot of film from when I was in high school and I don't rush as much now; I just take my time. Now, Jake (Wawrzyniak, running back) and I will stand in the backfield and talk it out before I start the play. I slowed the game down."
Victory said he believes the best attribute with which he arrived at Coast Guard is to keep his cool.
"I try to stay calm even when things are flying around. I've thrown a lot of interceptions in my life. I definitely get a little ticked off, but we move on from it," Victory said. "It just came over time. I've been playing for 13 or 14 years. You grow used to it. You realize it's one play."
Victory has been playing football since he was a 5-year-old nose tackle. He also played offensive line and linebacker when he was little, as well as playing a season for the first female Pop Warner coach in Broward County: his mom, Diane.
"It wasn't a big deal for us. It was a big deal to the newspaper," Victory said. "She used to make me throw 100 perfect spirals before dinner."
Victory is 3-2 as a starter, including a 33-7 loss to Endicott on Oct. 26, the Bears' last time out. Perhaps his best start, and most efficient, came in a 40-0 win over Maine Maritime on Oct. 19, when Victory was 21-for-23 with 186 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"He's played with a sense of confidence," George said. "He studies the game. When he was on the fourth string, he got back there and listened to what the coaches were saying to the other three guys.
"He has some freshman stuff in him, but he is tough as nails. He's not a complainer. He's not a pouter. And he's got a lot on his plate."