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Eric Peterson, Published January 02 2014

Running back West finds his way with Towson

FRISCO, Texas – Towson University head coach Rob Ambrose got a knock on his door a few Januarys ago from Terrance West, who then was looking for a chance to play college football.

Even though all the scholarship money was spoken for that season, Ambrose wasn’t going to turn down West.

“How am I not going to take this Baltimore guy?” Ambrose said during a Thursday news conference. “And Terrance was clearly a talent.”

A few years removed from that meeting with Ambrose, West has developed into one of the top players in NCAA Division I FCS. The junior running back has helped Towson earn a spot in Saturday’s national championship game against top-ranked North Dakota State.

“It is just a blessing the outcome we are getting right now,” said West, who has rushed for 2,410 yards and 40 touchdowns on 319 carries in 15 games this season.

Schools like Clemson and Maryland showed interest in the 5-foot-11, 223-pound West before he ended up at Towson. West gained more than 4,700 total yards in his career at Northwestern High School in Baltimore. He spent one year at Fork Union Military Academy.

In his first spring semester at Towson, West couldn’t afford to live on campus and was paying his own way to school, Ambrose said. West had to take two buses to get to school and would arrive an hour before the 5 a.m. spring practices, usually before Ambrose had made it to his office.

“I knew that he had something in him that most people don’t have,” Ambrose said.

In 2011, West won the Jerry Rice Award, which is given to the top freshman in the FCS. West did not play in the season opener that season, but finished with 1,294 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns in 11 games.

West made the trip to Frisco after that freshman campaign to receive the Rice award, and had a chance to watch NDSU win its first FCS national championship.

“I pictured myself … like, ‘One day we are going to be in this situation,’ ” West said. “And here we are today.”

West has elevated his game to another level this season. He was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which is given to the top player in FCS. In the national quarterfinals, West rushed for 354 yards and five touchdowns on 39 attempts in a 49-39 victory at No. 2-seeded Eastern Illinois.

He followed that with a 115 rushing yards and two TDs on 27 carries in a 35-31 win at No. 3-seeded Eastern Washington in the semifinals.

“He’s just been incredible this year, and I came in the same time that he did,” said Towson sophomore Connor Frazier, a backup quarterback and wide receiver for the Tigers. “It’s been a great sight to see him grow. … He is just a better overall running back.”

West has been held below 100 rushing yards in three games this season. NDSU has one of the top defenses in the country, limiting teams to 90.2 rushing yards to per game.

“They have a good defense,” West said. “It’s just about us executing and who wants it the most. We’ve been doing pretty good with that.”

West knows Towson is considered the underdog in the title game by most, but he relishes that role.

“We’ve been the underdog all year round,” West said. “That’s what we like. We like being the underdog. We like to prove a lot of people wrong. It makes us play with a chip on our shoulder.”


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Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com