Darius Lawton, Sports Studies


Name: Darius Lawton

College: Health and Human Performance

Major: Sports Studies 

Age: 21

Classification/Year: Senior

Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia

Hobbies/interests: Shopping, playing and watching basketball and football, playing videogames, making money, and collecting shoes.


How will you take ECU with you after graduation? I have quite a few, but the best memory I will take when I leave ECU is when I got the chance to go to Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas this year.

A stroll with Darius Lawton around East Carolina University athletics and College of Health and Human Performance buildings can be easily interrupted. Whether it’s faculty, athletics operations staff or a user of the ECU Fitness, Instruction, Testing and Training Building, people like to stop and chat with Lawton.

This is vastly different from Lawton’s first semester at ECU, in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when uncertainty swirled.

“I am very proud and being from out of state, I came here not knowing a single person,” said Lawton, a Norfolk, Virginia, native who will earn a Bachelor of Science in sports studies degree later this week. “I always liked to meet people, but this has pushed me to open up and let people know me and be who I am and true to myself in every single circumstance. Getting into all these activities and programs is based on who I’ve met. … It’s just going out and doing it. You never know if you don’t like it until you try it.”

Lawton volunteered at the Super Bowl and has enjoyed being an HHP student ambassador, ECU Athletics student employee and research assistant. He’s working with Dr. Bhibha Das on a funded research project about physical activity and life expectancy of Black former collegiate athletes. This is inspired in part by the sudden 2016 heart attack death of Lawton’s father, who played running back in football at Norfolk State University.

Lawton plans to return to East Carolina to continue his education in graduate school to study sport exercise and psychology.

Lawton plans to return to East Carolina to continue his education in graduate school to study sport exercise and psychology.

“It didn’t sit right with me and I knew my dad was physically active throughout his whole life, even after sport, so I needed to do something that kind of honors him and is giving back,” said Lawton, who said research opportunities with Das and Dr. Christine Habeeb have helped him flourish holistically. “I’m a Black man, at the end of the day. I want to help the Black community — male, female, youth, older populations — I just want to give back. I’ve had strong, Black people around who have shaped me, so I want to be that somebody for other people.”

Sports psychology has emerged as a leading area of interest for Lawton, who will continue in the ECU College of Health and Human Performance in graduate school to study sport exercise and psychology.

“I want to understand the optical performance peak and why it fluctuates,” he said. “Some athletes like the pressure and some don’t, so I want to understand the mind of how everyone operates, because nobody is the same.”

Lawton’s introduction to Habeeb and the TEAM-OPPS Research Lab, dedicated to optimizing psychology in performance settings, sparked Lawton during his ECU journey.

“This lab is what opened me up to everything,” Lawton said.