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From Unwanted to Unbelievable

How little-known Lindon Victor finished his career as perhaps the best collegiate athlete of all time.

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Texas A&M recruits prospective student-athletes from all over the world to come to College Station. A recent search showed nine of A&M's 18 teams featured at least one international student-athlete. Like Lindon Victor, many of these international student-athletes are only able to come to Aggieland with the help of financial assistance in the form of scholarships.

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It is astonishing to think that in 2012, not one university or junior college in the United States thought Lindon Victor, a graduate of Grenada Boys Secondary School, was worthy of a scholarship to attend school and compete for its track and field team.

Now, the Texas A&M senior is the two-time NCAA Division I decathlon champion, making him America's best college athlete for the past two years. And in the eyes of someone close to Victor, it makes him the best to ever take classes and make use of scholarship funds in College Station.

"I will tell everybody: He's the best athlete who's ever been at Texas A&M," said Aggies track coach Pat Henry. "Because an athlete is determined by run, jump and throw. Not one of them or two of them, but three of those disciplines. He's the best that anybody has ever been in college."

To Henry, that assessment includes every university or junior college in America.

It is hard to argue with Henry after Victor, who runs a 10.6-second 100 meters, a 48-second quarter mile, long jumps 24 feet and throws the shot, discus and javelin 54, 181 and 233 feet, respectively, set a new collegiate record this spring with 8,539 points at the SEC Championships. Incredibly, that competition marked the second time he broke the NCAA record this spring.

One month later in chilly, wet conditions at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon on June 8, Victor amassed 8,390 points, his fourth 8,000-point decathlon in 12 months, as he won the NCAA championship for the second straight year.

"I'm blessed to be able to defend my title," Victor said. "I've been saying all along that God has been blessing me. I've been praying a lot, and He's been doing some wonderful things in my life."

So how does a young man go from unwanted to a two-time NCAA decathlon champion in just five years?

First, he went to work and did plenty of the praying he mentioned above. Then, he took a chance on a small school in Kansas, did more praying and eventually settled in College Station for some more hard work with Henry and his coaches at Texas A&M.

All of that almost never happened, because going to work after being denied an opportunity following high school meant Victor needed to have a job in Grenada.

America's temporary loss provided Grenada with a young entrepreneur. The 6-foot-3 Victor, who had grown up and grown strong on his father Lincoln Victor's domestic farm with bulls and pigs, started a landscaping business.

He was doing so well and gaining so many clients that he had to hire three people to work for him on the small island of 105,000 people, which is about 370 miles northeast of Caracas, Venezuela, at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. However, he continued working out to stay in shape, praying that a track and field opportunity would come along.

 

JUMPS, RUNS AND THROWS...OH MY

No event tests a competitor's fitness, stamina and ability like the decathlon. A decathlon competition is divided into two days and consists of four runs (100, 400 and 1,500 meters), three jumps (pole vault, long jump, high jump) and three throws (shot put, discus and javelin). In August, Victor will compete in the World Championships.

Victor's plight in 2012-13 is even more amazing when you consider that his brother, Kurt Felix, won the NCAA decathlon title for Boise State in 2012 and competed for Grenada at the Olympics that summer in London.

How was it that no school was willing to take a chance on an athlete with that type of family history?

"I sent out about a million emails," Victor said. "I was like 'I need a scholarship. This is what I've done. I think I could be really good.'

"I was going through a really tough phase."

He worked hard on his business and his training, while his mother, Dale Victor, prayed for her son. One night, she called him and said she had visited a prayer service and prayed that he would get a scholarship. He said a little prayer of his own after the call. Later that night, he messaged a coach he knew at Nebraska.

She responded right away, saying she didn't have anything, but she knew a coach, Darin Schmitz at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, who might be able to help.

So, in 2013, Grenada lost a budding landscaper because the coach of a small NAIA school in Kansas answered his prayers.

"Literally no other school made me an offer," Victor said.

Victor excels in the decathlon's throwing events, part of which he said he owes to the work he did on his father's farm, chopping hay with a machete and cutting trees. He started showing off those skills at Benedictine, where he earned All-America honors by finishing third at the 2014 NAIA outdoors in the javelin and fourth in the decathlon with 6,987 points.

That summer, Victor and his brother competed for Grenada at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Felix finished third with a new national record of 8,070 points, and Victor added nearly 500 points to his personal record with 7,429 points to finish ninth.

That performance changed Victor's goals and aspirations. He wanted to work with as many coaches as possible so he could improve on all the decathlon's demanding events. Tiny Benedictine College with about 2,000 students and not as many coaches dedicated to track as top flight programs such as Texas A&M, Florida and LSU was about to lose its track star.

"He came here a good college athlete and left here a great college athlete," Schmitz told the St. Joseph News-Press when Victor transferred. "I wish Lindon all the luck in the world and I hope nothing but great things for him."

Victor's second prayer helped Texas A&M land the best athlete it has ever known. As it turns out, when Victor sought a place to transfer, he found the response very similar to what he received after high school.

No one really wanted him.

Victor said he sent emails to every NCAA Division I coach, many of which went unanswered. Meanwhile, he fielded a handful of offers from small schools.

The first one he really considered came from Division II Azusa Pacific, which was attractive because of 2008 Olympic decathlon champion Brian Clay's ties with the school. However, A&M quickly figured into the mix with assistant coach Alleyne Francique, who is track and field royalty in Grenada because of his world titles in the 400 meters.

Coach Henry sent along a list of athletes he had worked with, and that helped sway Victor's thinking. But he still needed to pray about the decision. He was in Tucson, Arizona, staying at Benedictine teammate Will Wallace's home for the holidays in 2014 when he made his decision two days before Christmas.

"I remember saying 'Lord, I want to make the right decision,'" Victor said. "I knew that this decision was going to change my life forever."

His prayer was answered.

Upon arriving in College Station for the spring 2015 semester, Victor started working with a full staff of coaches geared to helping him in each of his events. Victor and Henry admitted that it wasn't easy. He had to learn how to work harder than ever.

And that was a lesson that did not fully sink in until after Victor's successful junior season, which included his first NCAA title and an SEC championship, where his point total of 8,446 broke the conference and school record of 7,931 that had stood since 1991 and most importantly his brother's Grenadian record of 8,320.

"Prior to even this year, he had events that he wouldn't train hard in during the week and it showed up on Saturday," Henry said. "Now that he's training hard, he's going to be really great."

Henry credits part of that turnaround to Victor's trip to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where he finished 16th with 7,998 points, seven places behind his brother's 8,323. He said Victor saw how hard the decathletes that finished above him worked to achieve that status.

Victor said he woke up one day before his junior year and knew he had to work harder. He's been seeking to improve upon that every day since.

"I was like 'God, I'm going to put in the work. You're going to have do what you have to do,'" Victor said. "I remember telling Him that. Just one day, I got up and I was like 'Lord, I'm going to train hard.' I wasn't asking Him, I was telling Him. I'm going to train hard, and then You are going to have to bless me."

The blessings rolled in this year, as Victor became just the fifth athlete to defend a NCAA decathlon title, following Oregon's Ashton Eaton (2008-10), George Mason's Rob Muzzio (1984-85), Arizona's Jake Arnold (2006-07) and Georgia's Maicel Uibo (2014-15).

Victor won the hotly contested decathlon by topping three others who surpassed the 8,000-point barrier. He now has five of the top eight collegiate decathlon scores ever posted at Nos. 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8.

Now that his eligibility is complete, Victor is set to graduate in December with a university studies degree in business and minors in economics and leadership. But before he walks the stage, he has one final goal to accomplish. It is one he wrote down after the Olympics last year: Beat Kurt Felix, his brother, in international competition.

They will both be at the World Championships in London representing Grenada from Aug. 5-13 this summer.

"I'm already in Worlds so I can make amends for that Olympics," Victor said. "It's fun having that, because he doesn't want me to beat him. It's a thorn in my side. When you go home, his picture is the one on the billboards. And I'm like, 'I'm the national record holder!'"

Competition aside, the brothers rely on each other for moral and technical support. Felix is the better jumper, so he helps Victor out with those events, and Victor returns the favor in the throws. Coming to A&M improved Victor's speed so much that he began running faster than his brother, so he even started offering tips there, too.

The brothers love competing. It is interesting to think that without his prayers and a couple of coaches taking a chance on him, Victor and Felix may not have such a special relationship around their decathlon duels.

"It's instilled in our family, our Christian family. We pray a lot," said Felix, who trains at Purdue with coach Chris Huffins, the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist. "One of the mottos that we've always gone by is 'What is for us is always for us no matter what.' What I'm talking about is 'What's for you is for you.' Whatever we have to accomplish in life, we will accomplish."

Victor has been following that motto with devotion, from being unwanted after high school to becoming the NCAA's best athlete for two years running. Coming to Texas A&M allowed him to work as hard has he could for what he achieved.

Douglas Pils, class of 1992, is general manager of the Texas A&M Student Media Department.

 

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