At a recent talk with 20 middle school boys with academic and behavioral problems at an alternative school in Charlotte, N.C., Darius Law made the case as a living example that earning good grades, studying and setting goals are “cool.”
Despite balancing a demanding business management course load daily with intense track and field practices that can run a grueling three hours, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte junior eagerly makes time for such events. He can thank his mother for that.
“I saw how she helped others, and I feel I should do the same thing,” he says of his mother, who raised two biological sons and several foster children on her own in Raleigh, N.C. “That’s why giving talks to students at places like [the alternative school in Charlotte] is important. We all need someone to help us out.”
Law’s appearance won rave reviews from the students and admiration of academic adviser Mark Verburg. “I don’t know how he maintains a schedule to earn a cumulative 4.0 [grade-point average], is Student-Athlete Advisory Committee president and receives all-conference honors in track,” Verburg says.
“We very seldom see someone who can excel in sports and academics and does all this community service,” Verburg adds. “To have all this in one package is pretty amazing.”
For those reasons, Law is the Diverse 2010 Arthur Ashe Jr. Male Sports Scholar of the Year. His resume includes: the first student-athlete from UNC Charlotte to represent the Atlantic 10 on the national SAAC board that promotes and reviews proposed policies, rules and regulations regarding collegiate athletics in the NCAA; a three-time A-10 men’s Student-Athlete of the Year; and 2008 A-10 Most Outstanding Rookie for indoor and outdoor track. He holds the sixth-fastest time in the nation in the 400 meters at 46.29 seconds.
In February, Law helped the 49ers men’s indoor track team win its fourth A-10 title in five seasons. Law won the 200- and 400-meter dashes and ran the anchor leg of the winning 1,600-meter relay.
But the 20-year-old, who plans to attend law school, also helped build a playground accessible for children with physical disabilities, made gingerbread houses with children suffering from emotional problems, planted gardens at an Atlanta elementary school and organized a campus fundraiser through his Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
“I try to stay busy. I feel like there is always something I can do,” Law says. “I want to be a well-rounded individual.”
Law’s love for track and field was nearly dashed in high school. As an 80-pound ninth-grader, he was cut from the baseball, basketball and track teams. He tried out again the following year for track as a sprinter and made the team.
“I worked hard my sophomore year [in high school],” says the 5-foot-10, 125-pound Law. “Then in my junior year I was getting all these offers from various schools, so track was a good thing for me to do.”
UNC Charlotte track and cross country Head Coach Robert Olesen says Law is driven to excel and is one of the most unique athletes he’s ever coached. One statistic that amazes Olesen is 15 out of Law’s 16 All-Conference individual and relay awards at UNC Charlotte are for first-place finishes, the most in the men’s program at Charlotte.
“When Darius gets the baton and he’s on the anchor and we’re behind, I’m like, ‘OK, we will catch up.’ He is just intrinsically motivated,” Olesen says. “He’s only a junior so he still has more work to do. By the time he finishes his career, he will probably be the most dynamic student-athlete we have ever had.”