“Life feels good when you’re winning,” says one of the men responsible for the Generals’ success last season, running back Darius Victor. “I’m playing the game I love, my team is winning games, and that’s all a man can ask for.”
Victor was named the USFL’s Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league with nine rushing touchdowns, ranking third in rushing yards (577), and fourth in yards per game (57.7). At 5’8″ and 209 pounds, with 30-inch quads (yes, you read that right…30 inches), the Generals RB is a wrecking ball on the field.
“Thick thighs save lives,” Victor recalls as he laughs about the Week 5 game-winning play. “I had to put them to use and push him [Perez] over to the endzone.”
With his light-hearted demeanor and self-described goofball personality, it would be hard to fathom the hell Darius Victor has walked through to get to where he is today.
“I’m not even supposed to be here”
Victor, who is one of seven children (4 brothers, and 2 sisters), was born in 1994 in a refugee camp in Africa’s Ivory Coast after his parents, Gary and Patricia, fled the first Liberian Civil War.
“Have you ever seen the movie Blood Diamond?” Victor asks, “That’s the type of environment I was born into.”
Victor and his family literally ran for their lives, hiding and sleeping in bushes for safety when their country was being torn apart by violence and bloodshed. Nearly 250,000 people — men, women, and children — lost their lives in Liberia’s civil war.
“I was too young to remember what happened at the time,” Victor told NBC Sports. “But from the stories my parents have told me about what we were running away from, I’m not even supposed to be here.”
The Victor family moved to the U.S. in 1999 and lived in Manassas, Virginia before moving to Hyattsville, Maryland, in 2002. After leaving everything behind, Gary and Patrica worked tirelessly to provide for their family and while their parents were out just trying to make ends meet, all seven of the Victor siblings Velma, Earl, Kevin, Darius, Leon, Shaka, and Nicole — looked out for one another. Helping with homework, making sure everyone was fed, and involved in activities. For Kevin and Darius in particular, that activity was football.
“My older brother Kevin was my role model growing up,” Victor recalls. “I used to go with him to football practice and he was pretty good. He was a Boys and Girls Club legend. I had to compete with him in everything and I wanted to be better than him in everything that I did. So I started playing football and tried really hard to be better than him. Having that role model to follow is what really gave me a love for the game.”
The duo, four years apart in age, went on to play football at Northwestern High School, sharpening each other with their competitive nature both on and off the field. But everything changed in December 2011, when Kevin was tragically shot and killed walking home from the local community center after playing basketball with friends — just one block away from his family’s apartment.
“Losing a child and a sibling is crazy,” Victor said. “It was tough but it made us even closer as a family. It made me go even harder because Kevin was always the tough one on me. When we were kids I would always cry on the football field if something didn’t go my way and Kevin would straighten me out.”
“His passing has given me a mindset of toughness and resiliency. I’m always thinking about him and trying to live up to the level of confidence that he had in me.”
In October, just 10 months after Kevin’s passing, Darius was in the midst of a breakout senior season when the Victor family’s apartment burned down.
“The toughest part wasn’t even losing our stuff but it was seeing my Mom and Dad cry again. That was so tough on me.” Darius recalls. “At that point in my life, I had to decide to never question God, believe that everything happens for a reason, and control what I could control.”
With family at the forefront of his mind, Victor decided to play football at Towson University, where he earned a scholarship, roughly 45 minutes away from his hometown. He earned First-Team All-CAA honors in 2014, rushing for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns on 250 carries, but says he also a learned new level of toughness from his coaches and teammates that he still keeps in contact with today.
“Coach Reno Ferri really believed in me and that gave me so much confidence,” Victor said. “But there are so many guys there that really spoke into my life including my teammates FB Dreon Johnson, RB Terrance West, and coaches Rob and Jared Ambrose.”
Victor, who only played in 4 games during his senior year of college due to a toe injury, went undrafted after graduating from Towson in 2017 but had several opportunities with NFL teams. Victor received an invite to the New York Jets rookie minicamp, the New Orleans Saints training camp, and even landed a spot on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad but unfortunately, those opportunities didn’t end the way he wanted them to.
However, the Hyattsville native didn’t let that discourage him.
“I’ve been through so much in life that I’ve grasped the concept of controlling what you control,” the 28-year-old said. “One of my mottos is to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready so doing that and just trusting God made me available mentally and physically for the next opportunity.”
For Victor, that meant showing up to train long hours after working a 9-5 job every day as a Sales Operations Manager at Penske and staying consistent no matter what — even when the CFL signed and cut him a day before he was supposed to leave for Canada (2019) and when the XFL season came to a sudden halt in the midst of a global pandemic (2020).
But when the USFL finally called, selecting him in the 6th round of the Supplemental Draft, he was ready. Victor says his love for his family and his faith in God is what fueled him during the hard times in life.
“Knowing all that my family has been through and the fact that we’re not even supposed to be here, every day I get is a blessing and I just want to make them proud. They are my why, ” says Victor, who is often spotted wearing merchandise with the phrase “Keep God 1st” on his clothing.
“I don’t care if you are a millionaire or dirt poor…life is going to life, but if you put God first everything will work itself out and that’s how I live my life.”
First and 10 with Darius Victor
To what do you attribute the New Jersey Generals’ early success?
“We have great coaching and great leadership. The team is very close and we hold each other accountable because we all have the same goal. We’ve all been through similar experiences. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked to 30 or 38 players who’ve been cut multiple times too and that creates a bond.”
“Also, we have a little chip on our shoulder because in preseason we were projected to finish last in the league due to our ‘talent level’, so shout out to whoever released those preseason polls because it made us hungry.”
If someone were to be a fly on the wall in the locker room, what’s one thing that they’d be surprised to find out about the New Jersey Generals?
“After a win, we do a ‘hip, hip hooray’ chant. Coach Riley goes ‘hip hip’ and the rest of the team goes ‘hooray’. It’s the greatest thing ever.”
What’s your role on the team?
“I’m one of the older guys on the team so I consider myself to be one of the leaders and the ‘special teams captain’. Coach always jokes around and says I’m the heart and soul of the team. I just want to do everything I can to make this team successful.”
How would you describe your style as a running back?
“I think I’m pretty balanced but the thing that separates me the most is my physicality. I don’t think a lot of human beings can run the football like me. If you just watch the tape or just watch the football games, that’s how I stand out.”
Pre-game hype song?
“I have to listen to the song “I’m a dog” by Gucci Mane that puts me in my zone.
“I have a superman Jesus cut-off shirt that I wear under my pads every game. I wouldn’t really call it a superstition but I wouldn’t feel right without it.”
What’s one thing about yourself that not everyone knows?
“I’m addicted to Candy Crush. I’m on level 4,650.”
Favorite Football player?
“John Johnson, he’s the starting safety for the Cleveland Browns and also my best friend”.
“Oh, Forest Gump. Easy.”
Favorite pair of kicks?
“Jordan 1s, I can’t pick one specific pair.”