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Former Towson running back Darius Victor is one of the best players in the USFL. It’s all because he ‘kept the faith.’

Former Towson running back Darius Victor has found a home — even if it’s not the one he might have initially envisioned.

After brief stints with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals, Victor has flourished as a member of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals. He leads the eight-team league in both rushing yards (543) and touchdown runs (nine) and ranks second in carries (120) and fourth in rushing yards per game (60.3).

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“Whenever I’ve played football, I’ve felt at home, that’s where I’ve felt peace,” he said. “So I can say that because the USFL has given me an opportunity to play football.”

With the 28-year-old Victor on their side, the Generals lead the league in both rushing offense (158.7 yards per game) and total offense (342.7 yards per game) and rank third in scoring (22.8 points per game). Since a season-opening 28-24 loss to the Birmingham Stallions on April 16, New Jersey has won eight consecutive games and clinched the North Division title.

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Running backs coach Jay Locey compared Victor favorably to Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green for his toughness and competitive streak.

“I think the beautiful part that he does is, he is one of those guys that elevates and takes on special teams, and every aspect that he does is valuable to him,” Locey said of Victor. “He brings people with him.”

Victor was uncertain he would find stability in professional football. After his senior year with the Tigers in 2016, the Hyattsville native and Northwestern High grad joined a crowded Saints backfield that included Mark Ingram II, Alvin Kamara and Adrian Peterson for training camp in 2017, but he was cut in September. Two months later, he was signed to the Cardinals’ practice squad and endured a number of releases and re-signings before getting waived ahead of the 2018 season opener.

To make ends meet, Victor worked as a supervisor for a shipping corporation and a sales operation manager for an automotive products company. Then in October 2019, he was selected in the ninth round of the XFL draft by the New York Guardians and finished the 2020 season ranked fifth in the league in rushing yards (238) and sixth in rushing average (4.3 yards per game), but did not reach the end zone.

The coronavirus pandemic cut short the XFL’s return, and the league filed for bankruptcy in April. Victor returned to Miami, where he provided security at several federal buildings.

Despite the setbacks, he continued to train to stay in football shape, sometimes returning home at 8 p.m., wolfing down some food, going to sleep and waking up before 6 a.m. to repeat the cycle.

“That was kind of tough doing that for such a long time with no end in sight,” he said. “It was like two full-time jobs because in my head, I was still a professional athlete, and I prepared like that.”

Victor said he was contacted by the USFL a few weeks before the league’s initial draft in February. But no teams picked Victor, who was frustrated until the Generals took him in the sixth round of the supplemental draft the following month.

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“I was like, ‘Wow, not this again.’ But I kept the faith and got picked up a couple weeks after in the supplemental draft,” he said. “I’m older now, so I can handle disappointment better. I kind of spoke it into existence.”

Locey, who worked with wide receivers and tight ends before being promoted to associate head coach at Oregon State, said he was surprised Victor was still available. Locey said Victor, who is affectionately called “Vito” by those close to him, is tough to tackle due to his 5-foot-8, 209-pound frame powered by 30-inch thighs.

“He’s built low to the ground,” Locey said. “It’s hard to get underneath him. The term ‘bowling ball’ has been used quite a bit when describing Vito.”

Towson coach Rob Ambrose can attest to the difficulty of tackling Victor. He said when Victor became a junior in 2015, the coaches were forced to keep him out of short-yardage and goal-line drills because he had a habit of running over his defensive teammates and injuring them.

“To be honest, I’ve got to believe that part of the reason why he’s not in the NFL is a gentleman’s agreement because nobody wants to tackle him,” Ambrose said with tongue firmly planted in his cheek. “There are great players, but Darius is unlike any football player I’ve ever seen. ... I was a crazy football player a million years ago, and I swear to God I would not ever want to tackle him.”

After posting 66 rushing yards and zero touchdowns in that loss to the Stallions, Victor found the end zone five times in his next four games and then four times in his last two games, including three touchdowns and 87 yards in a 29-18 victory over the Pittsburgh Maulers on June 3.

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“I’m making the most of the opportunity,” he said. “I know for a fact that it could be over with a snap of the fingers. So this is a huge blessing, and I’m glad that I’m taking advantage of it because it would be very wasteful if I didn’t.”

Whether Victor’s performances are making an impression with NFL scouts remains to be seen. While many NFL teams are opting for pass-heavy offenses, Ambrose noted that the Ravens and Tennessee Titans are continuing to rely on run-based attacks, which might suit a player of Victor’s caliber.

“This has done nothing but opened up everybody’s eyes that he is a professional athlete,” Ambrose said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the CFL, the NFL, the XFL, the USFL. Darius Victor is a professional.”

Victor said he doesn’t want to distract himself with thoughts about the NFL. He said he’d rather focus on helping the Generals capture the USFL title at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on July 3. He’s never won a championship in football, though he reached the 2013 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game with Towson.

“Just winning a championship ring would mean the world to me,” he said. “So that’s what we’re trying to do.”


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