Darius Royster took the chance he was given and ran with it, transforming from a walk-on into an all-conference footballer during his short time here at N.C. Central University.
Before that leap of faith, however, the now-senior defensive lineman was dealt a bad hand early in his collegiate career.
Royster was born and raised in Virginia, playing football for and graduating from Deep Creek High School in Chesapeake. After his father fell ill, Darius took on a primary caretaker role, which conflicted with his plan to try out for the team at nearby Norfolk State University for two years.
Once his father recovered, he tried out for the team again but didn’t make it.
“I knew at that time period (that) it was a defining moment in my life,” Royster said. “Either I could give up on my dreams or fight for what God has planned for me.”
Former NCCU interim head football coach Granville Eastman said that he liked and respected Darius’ commitment to put in work day in and day out. The coaching staff, including Eastman, used to say that Darius was “unbreakable” and “tough as nails.”
“Darius Royster is a great example of what a person can do with an opportunity,” Eastman said. “He has dealt with adversity and has persevered to become one of the best players on the NCCU football team and an all-conference selection.”
Royster’s athletic journey at NCCU began during his first semester in spring 2017. After transferring, he started offseason training on a good note, showing the coaching staff that he could be a great asset to Eagles football.
Unfortunately, Royster himself fell ill and couldn’t continue training through the spring. Although he missed nearly all of the offseason, he still made the team as his health improved with a little help from his past.
“My high school coach Corey Harris attended Central,” Royster explained. “He had ties (to) the staff to help me get an opportunity to stay on the team in the spring.”
Royster’s breakout game was the first of the 2018 season against Prairie View A&M University in Atlanta for the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. The 6-foot-3-inch powerhouse broke the school record with six tackles for loss and finished the face-off with a team-high ten tackles overall.
He played all 11 games of the season, including nine games as a starting defensive end. By season’s end, Darius was also voted Third Team All-MEAC Third Team, led the conference with four forced fumbles, tied second in the conference with a team-high 17 tackles for loss, and tied for fifth in the league with a team-best five sacks.
Royster finished the year ranked third with NCCU football with 58 total takedowns and 39 unassisted tackles.
“Last year was amazing, just watching everything that God promised me unfold right before my eyes,” Royster said. “It gave me confidence that I can dominate the MEAC after my first season of really having played.”
Darius Royster embodies the idea of “getting it out of the mud” — a product of second-change success as a walk-on, he understands the importance of maximizing opportunity. His constant preparation and thorough, skillful execution is a major reason why Royster excels on the field at NCCU.
“He always trusted the process (and) never questioned why or how we were doing something. He did what he was told and that’s why he has achieved what he has today,” Eastman said. “From linebacker to highly productive defensive lineman; from being an average player to all-conference. That’s Darius Royster: always achieving.”
Story by Arthur Randall.