Just over one week ago, former Virginia Football player Darius Jennings finalized a deal to go from the Tennessee Titans to the Los Angeles Chargers. Jennings graduated from Virginia in 2015 and was picked up as an un-drafted free agent by the Cleveland Browns, but has spent the last two seasons with the Tennessee Titans. With the Titans in 2018, Jennings led the NFL with an average of 31.7 yards per kick return (and returned one for a touchdown).
Jennings finished his Virginia career with 1850 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns, but added 1839 yards from kick return. When he left Charlottesville, he held the program record for career kick return yards, a record since broken by Joe Reed (3092 yards, 2016-19).
We chatted with Darius to get his take on his new team, moving west, and what he thinks of the trajectory of the Virginia Football program.
Streaking the Lawn: Making the move to Los Angeles! How excited are you to play for the Chargers?
Darius Jennings: Moving to LA will definitely be an adjustment, but honestly I’m so excited. I’ve been an East Coast kid all of my life. I grew up in Baltimore and went to college at UVA, and even during my playing career, I haven’t been anywhere over a 12 hour drive (Chicago and Nashville...I know this because I have made those trips numerous times). You can’t beat beaches and sunshine all year round.
Super hype to be playing for the Chargers as well. They have always been a first class organization. I have played against them the past two years and they just come to compete. The country and the world’s safety are a priority right now, so it might be awhile before I can meet my new teammates and coaches. I am praying that everyone reading this is being smart and safe during these times, but I am excited to head out there and get the ball rolling.
STL: What is your message to your fans with the Titans? What was your time like there?
DJ: To the Titans fans and community, the message is plain and simple: thank you. Nashville has been my home for the last three years, and it’s only natural that you grow to love it. It actually gave me Charlottesville vibes with more adult things to do. Not the biggest country music fan, but there definitely was always something to do.
Playing wise, I experienced it all. From starting on practice squad, to leading the league in kick return average, to being released, then back on the team and making a playoff run. And as crazy as all of that sounds, I would not have had it any other way. It’s all part of the journey. My journey. It feeds the dawg inside me every single day. The best parts about being a Titan though were the lifelong relationships I built with my teammates. That will never go away.
STL: What are you most looking forward to playing with the Chargers?
DJ: I’m just ready to contribute and help this team win. The number 6 is special to me, and heading into year six in the league with a fresh start and a great organization, you can’t beat it. I feel like I am a versatile player. I can contribute to multiple facets of the game, and just looking forward to earning the respect of my new teammates. We are all itching for sports to get back right about now. Fans and players alike.
STL: We caught up recently at a Virginia basketball game...tell the folks about your program with the NFLPA and what you got out of it!
DJ: The NFLPA Externship Program is amazing. It is a 3-week program during our offseason, and it allows us players, former and current, to apply to different businesses and corporations across the country to refine our skills off the field and show that we are more than athletes and more than highlight reels and topics of criticism. So when I saw that UVA and Virginia Athletics was a host company, it was a no brainer.
We hit EVERYTHING under Virginia Athletics from shadowing football operations, to event planning and management, fundraising with VAF, lunch meeting with Mrs. Carla [Williams] (who is a complete boss and I love) to sitting with you all covering the basketball game and everything in between. It was an amazing experience and extra special for me being an alum. It allowed me to see all of the madness that goes on behind the scene to make the life of a student athlete a little less chaotic. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll be back in an official role (sunglasses emoji).
STL: Looking at what Coach Mendenhall has going on, how excited are you for the future of Virginia Football?
DJ: I love it. You can see and feel the cohesiveness and energy the guys play with on the field. There is a common goal in mind and everyone is doing their part to attack it. Nothing is given. Everything is earned. That is the standard and he has done a great job instilling that into every player.
I never played for Bronco, but every time I am in town he makes it a point to have a conversation with me. I feel like he does a good job of connecting to former players and making everyone feel welcomed. Of course I am a little biased, but Virginia Football is a family. Shout out to Coach Hagans, and his wife Lauren and two boys Christopher and Jackson. He started his coaching career the same year I arrived on Grounds, and we all have been family ever since.
STL: Which C’ville restaurant do you miss the most?
DJ: Honestly the food might have been the best part about my externship in Charlottesville haha. I got to try all of the places that I missed and ones that I had never tried while I was in school. Bodo’s is a staple. I legit go for breakfast every single day I am in town.
“Can I get two bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, American, on a plain bagel, to go please.”
But as for my favorite, it has to be ZinBurger. It arrived in Barracks around my third year in college and I immediately fell in love. The Double is the go to, and if I’m feeling frisky I will get a milkshake as well.
All Love and Wahoowa!
Huge thanks to Darius for chatting, and make sure to follow him (@DariusJennings_) to keep up with his career.