The bigger you are, the faster you run? Not the case for Darius Law. Standing 5 feet, 2 inches and weighing about 95 pounds during his freshman year of high school, he was cut from the football, basketball and baseball teams at Southeast Raleigh. Scared of rejection, Law decided to start running track during his sophomore year of high school, because it was the only sport that didn’t have cuts. In his senior season, he had recorded one of the fastest 400 meter times (47.24) ever run by a North Carolina high school athlete. For his efforts, he earned a scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
The 26-time Atlantic 10 Conference champion, recently completed his studies in business management, earning a perfect 4.0 GPA through four years of college. Law is headed back to the NCAA’s for the second consecutive year in the 400 meters, he’ll be hoping to end his collegiate career as a Charlotte 49er on a high note.
PreRaceJitters caught up with the true student-athlete for the Pre-NCAA installment of Sub 10 Second Tuesday.
PreRaceJitters: At the East preliminary, you ran 46.33 in the 400 meters, to advance back to the NCAA championships for the third consecutive year.
How do you feel about your performance?
Darius Law: Most importantly, I’m pleased that I achieved my primary goal of advancing to the 2nd round of the NCAA Championships in the 400m. Although I was hoping to run under 46 seconds, I’m just thankful and grateful that I survived and will get another chance to run versus some of the best 400m runners in the nation in Des Moines, Iowa. However, based solely on times, the 46.33 that I ran doesn’t quite compare to the 45.29 that I ran last year in the 400m or the 45.77 that I ran my sophomore year during this same time period.
PreRaceJitters: You’re quite the accomplished track athlete, having won 26 Atlantic-10 Conference titles in a number of events, such as the 200, 400, 4×100 and 4×400.
What does it mean to you to have accomplished this much?
Darius Law: All of my accomplishments and awards are truly blessings, but I don’t really focus on winning awards and getting recognition. Instead, I just focus on trying to be the best student, athlete, and person that I can be. While I’m very fortunate that I was able to leave my mark on the Atlantic 10 Conference, I just hope that people respect my academic accomplishments and community activism just as much as my athletic achievements. I want my legacy to be much bigger than anything that I have ever accomplished on the track because I firmly believe that as an athlete I do more than just run; I motivate; I inspire; I uplift; I achieve; and I lead…by example.
PreRaceJitters: Standing 5 feet, 10 inches and weighing about 125 pounds - many would guess that you were a distance runner instead than a sprinter. Does being a undersized in comparison to the prototypical sprinter give you a source of motivation?
Darius Law: I would definitely say that my size does give me a source of motivation because I always notice spectators pointing fingers at me before my races begin. I would guess that they are saying, “That boy D-Law is little… but he can still fly”. I would sum it all up by saying that I have never had height or weight, but one thing that I have always had is heart…and you can’t measure heart in a form of inches or pounds.
PreRaceJitters: You’re the true definition of a student-athlete. You recently completed your studies in business management, earning a perfect 4.0 grade point average through four years of college. What does it mean to have that accomplishment under your belt?
Darius Law: I have always put academics before athletics, so being able to graduate with Business Honors and a perfect cumulative 4.0 GPA was like running 43 or 44 seconds in the 400m. Walking across the stage on May 14th, 2011 really felt like I had won an Olympic Gold Medal. Just like an athlete training for the Olympic Games, earning my undergraduate degree was the accumulation of four hard years of studying day in and day out. It was also validation of many sacrifices that I’ve made over the past four years. What many people don’t realize is that I have been able to emerge as a top sprinter without being fully committed to Track & Field. Track has always been secondary to my education, which has caused me to make some major sacrifices as an athlete. In four years at Charlotte, my sleeping schedule has been unhealthy and I have never really lifted any weights. There have been track meets where I’ve stayed up studying and competed off of only 4 hours of sleep. My coach would say, “D-Law you need to get your rest”, and I would tell him that I had to do what I had to do and that lack of sleep was just one of the sacrifices that I was willing to make. In terms of weight lifting, it wasn’t that I was lazy; I just didn’t have enough time in the day to devote to both track practice and weight training. Once again, my coach understood that sprinting for excellence in the classroom was more important to me than sprinting to excellence on the track.
PreRaceJitters: You were recently awarded the Nish Jamgotch Jr. Humanitarian Student Award for your outstanding achievements in the community. How does it feel to have earned this honor?
Darius Law: First off, I just want to thank Dr. Nish Jamgotch Jr. for creating such a prestigious award. It is truly a blessing and honor to be recognized for the one thing that is most important to me, which is helping others. Like I personally expressed to Dr. Jamgotch, I look forward to the day in my life when I can pay it forward by establishing the Darius Law Humanitarian Student Athlete Award to recognize future students for his/her achievements.
PreRaceJitters: What are some of the community service activities that you have been involved in over the past four years at Charlotte?
Darius Law: In addition to leading a campus wide effort to raise awareness, money, and shoes for Samaritan’s Feet and the 300 million children that wake up every morning without a pair, I have helped organize efforts to donate new unwrapped toys for children for Toys for Tots, volunteered my time to tutor middle school children, participated in a date auction to help raise money for breast cancer, and even visited a detention center to talk to juveniles about attending college and the importance of goal-setting.
PreRaceJitters: What motivates you to give back to your community?
Darius Law: I have already noted that I have always put academics before athletics, but more importantly, I have always put helping other people before all.
My mother, who raised me as a single parent, instilled in me the importance of always helping others and giving back to the community at a very early age. Growing up in Raleigh, NC, I witnessed my mom change the lives of many children by serving as a therapeutic foster parent and welcoming children suffering from severe social, emotional, and/or behavior problems into our home with open arms full of love and joy. My rare life experiences growing up listening to the stories of children who had previously been abused, mistreated, neglected, and/or absent of a relationship with his/her biological parents is what lead to my humanitarian efforts and willingness to go above and beyond in terms of helping other people.
PreRaceJitters: How were you able to balance your academic, athletic and social lives all four years?
Darius Law: I don’t think it was very difficult at all. Although I was a 4.0 student-athlete, I had lots of fun in college and really got the full experience. For me, it was all about strategizing, keeping my priorities in order, managing my time, and understanding that having fun was necessary and healthy. I didn’t want to just be a bookworm. Therefore, I planned ahead and made sure I took care of business in the classroom and on the track first and then rewarded myself by having fun and hanging out afterwards. Finally, I mastered a lot of studying techniques early on as a college student and had a great strategy which was really the key to my success. I hope that I am able to share my true secrets and philosophy with student-athletes around the world one day.
PreRaceJitters: Talk about your four years at Charlotte, as a student-athlete. What will you remember most about being a 49er?
Darius Law: I will always remember the continuous support that the entire university and the Charlotte community provided me with. I can’t even describe how amazing this journey has been, but I can say that it has been, by far, the best four years of my life. Although I’m looking forward to everything that my future has in store, I will never forget the place that I call home and the opportunities that Charlotte presented me with. I will always be a Charlotte 49er, and I will always bleed GREEN.
PreRaceJitters: You have the ability to compete for a spot on the US team in 2012, but you’re also thinking about law school. What direction will you take?
Darius Law: Growing up, I never had dreams of becoming a professional athlete; I always had dreams of becoming a lawyer. And with the last name Law, I think it was all written from the beginning. However, instead of going directly to Law School, I have decided to take some time off to be fully committed to Track & Field (for the 1st time) with hopes of earning a spot on the US team in 2012. This upcoming year, I’m going to finally hit the weight room hard and really start doing the little things, such as eat and sleep right, that I haven’t been able to do in the past because of my extreme focus on school. Reflecting on my track career thus far, I just can’t stop running now because I know in my heart that I have so many opportunities to get better and so much unfulfilled potential. If I ran 45.29 barely getting by, then I know I have the potential to run 44 seconds or even faster once I finally commit and get serious about Track & Field. It’s almost unheard of for an elite sprinter to run fast without lifting weights, and I have been ducking and dodging the weight room for several years now. But those days are finally over, it’s time for me to step up to the plate and work just as hard on the track and in the weight room as I have worked in the classroom over the past four years. I also think this decision will help me in the long-run as taking advantage of an opportunity to earn a spot on the US team in 2012 should help me standout amongst thousands of other law school applicants in the near future.
PreRaceJitters: Do you get pre-race jitters? If so, how do you overcome them?
Darius Law: YES, I do have pre-race jitters. In addition to reciting Deuteronomy 31:6 and Philippians 4:13 over and over and over again, I overcome my pre-race jitters by talking to myself. I say, “D-Law this is the time! Get focused! Let’s go D-Law!”
PreRaceJitters: Looking ahead towards NCAA’s…It’s your final meet in a Charlotte 49er uniform. How do you want to end your career?
Darius Law: I just want to end my career doing what I always do, which is step on the track and give it my all. No matter the outcome, I know I will have always have support from Charlotte and will always be a winner in their books. But being the competitor that I am, when I step on the track to race, please believe that I’m in it to WIN IT!
PreRaceJitters: Thank you for your time and best wishes on the season.
David Pickett is a Contributing Editor at PreRaceJitters.com writing about the exploits of collegiate and elite track and field.