Oct. 27—Despite missing most of two games and playing sparingly in a third with a high-ankle sprain, Washington State wide receiver Lincoln Victor already has nearly as many catches this year as his last two seasons combined.
At this rate, the fifth-year senior will easily finish his last season with more receptions than his first four years playing college football combined.
Everything is clicking for the team captain and former walk-on.
"It's just a testament to the training staff and (receivers) coach (Nick) Edwards and the coaching staff getting me back to where I need to be to play at a high level," Victor said this week.
Victor broke the WSU single-game receptions record last week in the Cougars' 38-24 loss to then-No. 9 Oregon, finishing with 16 catches for 161 yards. He surpassed Vince Mayle's record of 15 at Arizona State in 2014.
It was also an Autzen Stadium record — a venue that has seen its fair share of high-flying offensive performances.
While he was playing, Victor didn't even realize he had that many catches.
"I was really just focused on doing my job to the best of my ability and luckily enough the ball kept finding my way," Victor said. "But it's good to get that confidence obviously being out for two and a half, three weeks, just picking up where I left off."
Coming into the season, Victor's best statistical season was last year when he finished with 26 catches. He already has 44 catches for 522 yards this year with five games remaining in the regular season.
Victor's journey is a perfect example of how hard work pays off. The Maui, Hawaii, native and former University of Hawaii player never stopped working behind the scenes waiting for the opportunity to shine.
"Lincoln is someone who works hard," said cornerback Cam Lampkin, who went against Victor when Lampkin was at Utah State and Victor was at Hawaii earlier in their careers. "He's the first one in the building and the last one to leave every day. I'm very happy for the record he got."
As has been mentioned at length before, Victor is a two-year team captain and a vocal leader for the Cougs — a role he also held last year.
Victor said it was hard being a team captain while not getting much playing time last year, but he and head coach Jake Dickert had a conversation about how leadership is not always results-based, and he took it to heart.
"It was tough. Having that captain's 'C' on your chest and not playing as much is definitely a hard thing to deal with," Victor said. "But luckily enough coach Dickert knew how to approach that and knew I was going to grow up one day and be in the position I am today."
Said Dickert, "I think he hasn't always gotten what he's wanted either. He came here as a walk-on, really earned his scholarship as a special teams rotational player, last year was completely lost in the shuffle. Then all of a sudden he finds his way, he keeps working, he puts his energy into everything that he does and he's seen the results of it.
"That's what I'm most proud of."
Between raging fires back in his home state of Hawaii and his injury, it hasn't been an easy couple of months for Victor.
But he hasn't let the adversity keep him down. While he was out with the injury following the Sept. 23 game against Oregon State, Victor took time at practices to go around and watch the other position groups and offer encouragement to players if they had a bad play or made a mistake.
The time on the sidelines allowed him to see football from a different perspective.
"(It's) just being able to have a greater appreciation for not only this game but the life that has chosen me," Victor said. "And being able to be grateful for not only this sport, but being able to strap on the pads still.
"There's so many guys who wish they could be in these shoes and you can't take that for granted. You gotta be able to take the opportunity and take advantage of it."
Victor is doing just that this season and it's paying off in a big way for him and the Cougars.
Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, email@example.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.