There are four weeks left in the 2022 USFL season. The final two weeks of the regular season and the playoffs. Starting on June 25th in Canton, Ohio, the 7-1 New Jersey Generals and three other teams will be competing for an opportunity to win a league championship. But there are other factors at stake for all of the USFL’s players in the final weeks of this season.
USFL players’ final NFL auditions
The USFL’s existence in 2022 has afforded players the opportunity to begin or resume their professional playing careers.
Having a pro football league where athletes can play professionally is a reward in and of itself. But perhaps the most rewarding aspect for some is the possibility that their performance in the USFL could lead to either their first or another opportunity to play in the NFL.
The final weeks of the USFL season are one last audition for all players on the league’s eight teams. Because of this, even the players on teams that are mathematically eliminated from the playoff chase still have something grand at stake. After all, the next two weeks are many of the USFL’s players’ last chance to put out great film and entice an NFL team to give them an opportunity this summer/fall.
It will be challenging for USFL players to latch on to ready-made 90-player off-season NFL rosters. But there should be quite a few of them across the entire league who get a shot to make their case in NFL camps and preseason games.
For some players like league-leading rusher Darius Victor (529 yards-9 TDS), being back to playing football again is good enough. But the truth is, based on his value on and off the field with the Generals. Victor should be on NFL team’s radars again.
Darius Victor’s journey back to playing pro football
The journey for Darius Victor has always been a challenging one. The hard-running Victor, who defenders struggle to tackle in the open field, has experienced some tough struggles in his personal and professional life. You’d never know it from his great smile and engaging demeanor.
Victor was born one of seven children on the Ivory Coast. He lived the first five years of his life in a West African refugee camp, and he didn’t arrive in the United States until 1999. Victor and his loved ones have been through the wars, literally, from his family escaping a dangerous war zone in Liberia to a fire that destroyed his family’s home a month after the shooting death of his older brother Kevin when he was only 18.
Darius Victor has experienced a lot of adversity. A running theme in his life and football career.
The 5’7 (maybe) Victor has always been overlooked. Even though, on the field, he has always stood out from the crowd. Victor attended Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. As a senior, Victor was the leading rusher in Maryland with 2,107 yards and 31 touchdowns. Earning him all-state honors. During his time at Northwestern, Victor also ran track and played basketball. Despite his favorable exploits in high school, Victor was only ranked as a 2-star recruit.
Victor entered college as a backup at Towson University in Towson, Maryland. In 2013, Victor found success playing behind running back Terrance West as a true freshman. He debuted at North Carolina Central and ran for 53 yards and two touchdowns. Victor would play in 14 games his first year, amassing 629 yards and seven touchdowns. As a result, he was named the CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year. Rob Ambrose, head coach at Towson University, once told the media that he sometimes had to remove Victor from short-yardage drills because he kept hurting his teammates with his hard-charging running style.
The 2014 season would be another successful campaign for Victor. The Tigers would hand over the reins to Victor after Terrance West departed for the NFL. Victor rushed for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns on 250 carries. Injuries would slow Victor down in his senior campaign. But he finished his college career with 3,309 yards and 41 touchdowns.
But despite being a superstar in college, Victor went undrafted in 2017. No UDFA signing either for Darius, and he would have to earn his spot in the NFL the hard way. Victor was invited to two separate NFL rookie camps on a tryout basis. (New York Jets/New Orleans Saints). The Saints would eventually sign Victor later that summer to a contract, but he would last only one month with New Orleans. The Saints backfield was tough to crack; it featured Adrian Peterson, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram. Ironically enough, Many who have watched Victor play in the USFL, like former NFL player and current broadcaster Michael Robinson have compared Victor’s running style to Mark Ingram.
In his short stay in the Bayou, Darius Victor did enough to impress the Arizona Cardinals and Bruce Arians, who signed him to their practice squad during the 2017 NFL season. However, he would never see the field during an NFL game in 2017. Bruce Arians would depart the desert, and Victor was eventually released twice by Arizona. The latter came at final cuts in the Summer of 2018.
Victor would try to latch on in Canada with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. But his stay there ended before it started. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats told Victor that they had to cut him just as he was about to head north because they had given too many roster spots to non-Canadian players.
Out of the NFL and even CFL loop. The XFL came calling in 2019. In October of that year, the New York Guardians selected Victor in the XFL Draft. And before the regular season even started, it didn’t take long for Victor’s hard-charging tackle-breaking style to go viral.
And then, after starring with the New York Guardians during the 2020 season, where he split duties in a three-headed backfield with Tim Cook and another USFL standout in Philadelphia’s Matt Colburn. Victor once again found himself without a football home when the league was halted due to COVID.
While many XFL players ended up and are still in the NFL. (nearly two dozen), Surprisingly, teams did not give “the thick-thighs save lives” tackle-breaking dynamo Victor a chance to make a roster. Both the 2020 and 2021 football seasons went by without Darius in uniform. There was interest from his former Guardians coaching staff in The Spring League. Kevin Gilbride, then with the Jousters, got the Guardian band back together in 2021, interestingly enough with current Generals quarterback Luis Perez leading the charge. But with, TSL players, by and large, not being compensated. Victor didn’t play last season.
Four years removed from being on an NFL roster and two years removed from playing in the XFL. Darius Victor was left on the outside looking back on what could have been. That’s until the USFL came on the scene and gave Victor a chance at rebirth. Victor, who grew up a New York Giants fan, would end up with another tri-state area named team in the New Jersey Generals. And this Spring Pro League would reunite him with several of his former Guardians teammates. Most notably, quarterback Luis Perez.
In the USFL, 28-year-old Darius Victor is happy to be playing the sport he loves again. The FCS superstar from Towson admits that he doesn’t need much compensation to put his body on the line and that simply playing pro football again is enough for him.
In an interview, Darius Victor recently told R.J. Young that he would play for almost no pay. Victor’s asking price is very reasonable, and simply paying his bills and having something to eat would suffice. Anyone that has interacted with Victor personally knows that his words are genuine.
Victor’s actions on and off the field have shown his value to his team and teammates. Since day one, he has been a team leader; Generals head coach Mike Riley has repeatedly praised Victor throughout the season for keeping the entire locker room loose and together. The head coach and one of his star players have formed a great bond.
On the field, Darius Victor is arguably one of the most entertaining players to watch in the entire USFL. Week after week, play after play, Victor plays every down like it’s his last. He’s not taking a moment for granted and enjoying every step of his journey.
Several players on each USFL team should be considered and signed by NFL teams. And there are many that will, and Victor might not for various reasons. However, very few are as deserving as he is.
Darius Victor is content with his current situation, playing football again, and leading his team as he runs toward a rushing title and potentially a USFL championship when the smoke clears.
At 28 years old, the odds are heavily against Darius Victor landing on an NFL roster. Age and the numbers game could work against him. It’s been four years since he has been taken off NFL team radars. Once that happens to you as a player, it’s an indicator that your NFL chances have been knocked down for good. But if you’ve watched Victor’s performance throughout his career and recently in the USFL, you’d know that he never goes down easy. He’s still fighting to move forward. Hopefully, he runs onto an NFL roster this summer.