» 5/2/12 - COMMENTARY: The truth, in media, can hurt
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One in a series of profiles from the Spring 2011 issue of Champion magazine.
By Gary Brown
At the end of a 30-minute interview with the down-to-earth and humble Darius Law, the Charlotte senior track star said, “Wait, one more thing. Everyone calls me ‘D-Law’ – my professors, my mom, my teammates. I wear a headband in track with ‘D-Law’ embroidered on the back. It’s not copyrighted, but I hope no one ever takes it from me.”
It’s usually not good news for the athletics department when a student-athlete goes to jail. But Charlotte track star Darius Law, who is accustomed to performing community service as a student-athlete, turned a trip to the pokey into a mission of mercy last summer. As he tells it ...
“My older brother LeRon has worked at the Wake County (North Carolina) Detention Center for several years. At one point he realized, ‘Man these kids don’t have anything to do – no role model to look up to.’
“He called me and asked me to talk with them. I was like, why not? It was heart-wrenching to see those young kids locked up. I was hoping to get to at least a couple of them. There were about 20 to 25, ages 14 to 18. Some were in there for the weekend and others were in for a bit longer.
“I stressed setting goals and encouraged them to realize their potential. And I asked them, ‘How do you think your mom feels about you being in here?’ That’s one way you can always get to someone. Everyone wants to make their mom happy.
“And then I talked about college, which generated a lot of questions. Many of these kids wanted to go, but they had no idea how to even begin to get there. How do I qualify? How can I afford it? They didn’t know anything about financial aid. They saw it as a hopeless situation.
“Interestingly, a week later, I was going back to the jail to have lunch with my brother, and I ran into one of the kids who was in the group I spoke to. He stopped me before I went in and told me how much he appreciated me talking with them. He said he was going to do what he could to make his mom happy.
“It is moments like that which make you stop and say, ‘This is what I want my life to be about.’ It’s something so simple, like taking the time to talk with people in trouble. I may never see that person again, but that simple ‘thank you’ made it all worthwhile.”
If anyone takes anything from D-Law, it would be a crime, because this is a young man who’s accustomed to giving back.
From working with Samaritan’s Feet to talking with mistake-prone kids at the Wake County Detention Center, “D-Law” at the tender age of 21 already understands that life isn’t a material pursuit.
That’s because he’s spent a lot of his own life around people who don’t have much to pursue.
Law’s mother operates a therapeutic foster care service from home, helping young people who suffer from behavior emotional disorder. Law has seen a lot of kids come and go, entering with a trash bag of clothes and leaving with little more.
“A lot of the kids who came in when I was really young I would get attached to, but they wouldn’t stay long, which took a toll on me emotionally,” he said.
And the one he got attached to that did stay awhile headed in a bad direction after he left (by law, foster kids who do not enter college have to leave the home when they turn 18). A couple of gangs and a bad drug deal later, the young man whom Law used to call a friend is on death row.
“I still write him letters and I’m still there for him, but I had to distance myself from him, too,” Law said. “I’ve seen so many kids make the wrong choices, and that has helped keep me on the right path.”
Law’s path was influenced by athletics, too. Though undersized, Law played basketball, baseball and football in middle school. “I was less than 100 pounds in ninth grade but I would always put 100 on the forms,” Law said.
That ninth-grade year was pivotal for Law. He got cut from all three teams and ended up with time on his hands. Law hit the books instead of the streets and began excelling academically. The reaction from his mother and his older brother LeRon was a boost.
“But I still felt like I was missing something,” Law said of the sports void.
He was pretty fast, and track was the only sport at his school that didn’t have cuts. By his junior year he was being recruited by a number of schools. “That opened my eyes to being able to access college through an athletics scholarship. Before that I thought my only chance was in academics,” he said.
He chose Charlotte over Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest and others because it was a better fit for him academically and athletically, and the aid package resulted in the least burden on his mom.
Darius Law (right) and his brother LeRon push young offenders in the right direction. Photo by: UNC Charlotte Sports Information.
But he also knew he could contribute right away to a successful track program there. The 2008 Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Year is now a four-time A-10 Student-Athlete of the Year and in 2010 was the only athlete to qualify for the NCAA outdoor championships in both the 200 and 400 meters. Law also is a first-team Academic All-American, a 4.0 student and recipient of the 2010 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar of the Year award, given to the top male minority student-athlete in the country.
His short-term dream is to participate in the Olympic Trials, and after graduating in May he’ll take the next year away from school to train. After that, it’s probably grad school or, appropriately, law school for Law.
Throughout that journey, expect Law to be giving, not taking.
“I want to be doing a lot of the same things I’m doing now, still giving back and doing what I can to help others,” he said. “Your journey to success shouldn’t be alone – you should be picking people up along the way and taking them with you.”