Former Towson great Vinson 'excited' for Tigers

Former Towson great Vinson 'excited' for Tigers
McDaniel College assistant coach Tony Vinson, left, played football at Towson University.McDaniel College assistant coach Tony Vinson, left, played football at Towson University and is ready to watch the Tigers take on North Dakota State in the NCAA FCS national championship game Saturday. (Photo courtesy of McDaniel College

Photo courtesy of McDaniel College , Carroll County Times)

Tony Vinson's schedule this afternoon is somewhat ironclad.

A little before 2 p.m., Vinson plans on parking himself on the couch with his son and switching on the TV. ESPN2 will be Vinson's station of choice, so the Westminster resident can catch Towson University, his alma mater, play for the NCAA's Division I Football Championship Subdivision national title.

"My wife already knows, we're not going anyplace," said Vinson, who set a then-record for Division I-AA in 1993 when he rushed for 2,016 yards.

Vinson earned first-team All-America status as a senior that season and led the Tigers to an 8-2 record and national recognition.

His 3,058 career rushing yards topped Towson's all-time list for six years, and he's one of only three runners in school history to surpass 3,000 yards.

The most recent is Terrance West, who has the Tigers (13-2) in the title game against undefeated North Dakota State, winners of the last two FCS championships.

West has 2,410 yards and 41 touchdowns, both FCS records, and averages a staggering 7.6 yards per carry.

Vinson said he likes what he sees when West has the ball.

"He punishes people," Vinson said. "He's shiftier than he looks. He makes a lot of people miss too. And maybe the biggest thing is, when the game's on the line, he wants the ball."

Towson is 9-0 on the road with playoff wins over Eastern Illinois and Eastern Washington to make its first national title game appearance.

North Dakota State (14-0) features a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, and quarterback Brock Jensen's 2,658 passing yards and 33 touchdowns.

The Bison are trying to become the first unbeaten FCS national champion since Marshall did it in 1996.

Vinson wrapped up his third year on McDaniel College's football coaching staff (running backs) this fall and helped Joe Rollins lead the Centennial Conference with 1,374 rushing yards.

But Vinson said he kept tabs on Towson's success throughout the season.

The Tigers have a short list of professional football products, and Vinson is on it.

He was drafted by San Diego in 1994, and played for the Ravens in 1997 and 1999.

"After our season ended, I really paid attention to what was going on," Vinson said. "I've been really excited for about a week and a half."

Vinson said he remains in contact with Towson coach Rob Ambrose, like him a former Tigers player.

The Tigers were 3-19 in Ambrose's first two seasons, but since then they're 29-5 with a Colonial Athletic Association title on their resume.

When Vinson and Ambrose start talking, the Tigers' growing football history is a likely topic.

"It's incredible," Vinson said. "I was there and we got nationally ranked for the first time.

"We felt like we had a good squad, and that was right when they had just saved Towson football.

"It's definitely awesome. It just shows you that dreams can come true."