(HEATHER KHALIFA/THE STATESMAN)

Senior defensive lineman Victor Ochi (No. 91, above) has recorded 20.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss in his last 19 games dating back to the start of his junior year. He now shares the Seawolves’ career sacks record with David Bamiro. (HEATHER KHALIFA/THE STATESMAN)

There are several reasons behind Stony Brook Football’s 1-5 conference record this season. Injuries, ineffective quarterback play and a tough schedule have left the Seawolves locked in the cellar of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Senior defensive lineman Victor Ochi is not one of those reasons.

Ochi has stood out as one of the best defensive linemen in the Football Championship Subdivision and is quite possibly Stony Brook’s most talented player at any position. His 9.5 sacks this season are tied for fourth in the FCS and with just one more, he will become Stony Brook’s all-time program leader in career sacks.

“I think it’s obvious that when he’s had successful games, we’ve been better as a defensive unit,” Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore said.

When Ochi first entered Valley Stream Central High School on Long Island, a path to football stardom seemed all but impossible. Ochi always wanted to play football, but his parents initially would not allow him.

“I wanted to run track just to run track because I didn’t think I’d be able to play football,” Ochi said. “My family finally bought into it and let me play my sophomore year.”

Now that he was finally able to suit up on the gridiron, Ochi needed a position.

“My coach decided that I was one of the biggest kids on the little team so he threw me on offensive line,” Ochi said. “And then one practice I was just pissed off that I moved to [offensive] line. So then I was the scout defensive lineman so they moved me to defensive line where I started wrecking everything in practice. So from there on I haven’t moved back since.”

Ochi played well enough during his first two years on the football field to earn scholarship offers as a senior. Ochi caught the eye of Priore at a college showcase camp held at Rutgers.

“He was a very good athlete, just really learning the game,” Priore said of the first time he saw Ochi play. “I thought if he became a student of the game and hit the weight room, he had potential to be a good player.”

Priore thought right. Just three years after playing his first organized football game, Ochi earned a full-ride scholarship to Stony Brook. The coaching staff redshirted him his first year, but Ochi got his first taste of action in the 2012 season, playing in all 13 games and starting five.

That year, the Seawolves won the Big South Conference and made it to the FCS Playoffs, where they won their first round game at home against Villanova, the team’s second-ever postseason win.

Former Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet ran for 165 yards and both of Stony Brook’s touchdowns in arguably the program’s biggest victory. Ochi said that  night was his most memorable as a Seawolf.

“Winning the Big South, seeing Villanova come here and seeing Maysonet take over the game was one of the best moments I’ve had in the school,” Ochi said.

The Seawolves have not made the playoffs since, but Ochi’s career has taken off nonetheless. He has recorded 20.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss in his last 19 games dating back to the start of his junior year. Ochi credits a tireless work ethic for his success.

“There’s never been one person I met from high school until now that I can say has outworked me,” Ochi said. “I just work every night and mornings. When people are sleeping, I’m out there working.”

David Bamiro, who shares the Seawolves’ sacks record with Ochi, signed a contract and spent time in training camp with the Minnesota Vikings in 2005 after playing at Stony Brook from 2001-2004. Priore said that Ochi could find himself in a similar situation after leaving Stony Brook.

“He’s on their radar,” Priore said of NFL teams. “We’ll see what happens.”

A stint in professional football would be a dream come true for Ochi, the same kid who did not play his first game until midway through high school.

“I have my goals to go next level,” Ochi said. “It’s been my goal since I was 15. That’d be great.”

While Ochi has had his fair share of success, Priore noted after the Seawolves ended their five-game losing streak that that may not be what is most impressive of all.

“You know obviously he’s accomplished great things on the field,” Priore said, before noting how instead of showing disappointment on the practice field, he has done the opposite, working as hard as ever. “I think that takes a lot of character and I’m happy for him.”