User ID: Password:

January 9, 2009

Royal enjoys a banner rookie season in Denver

By: Jimmy Robertson

Eddie RoyalCourtesy of Denver Broncos

When a member of the Denver Broncos’ media relations office approached Eddie Royal one day and informed him that Jim Rome wanted to have him on his show, Royal gave said member a wary eye.

“’He [Rome] wants to talk to me?’” Royal remembered saying. “I had to ask him twice.”

Such things tend to happen when one puts up the numbers that Royal did this season.

The former Tech standout, a second-round pick of the Broncos in last April’s NFL Draft, recently went on Jim Rome is Burning, and he made a case for the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year honor after having caught 91 passes for 980 yards, with five touchdowns, in his inaugural campaign. His receptions total – a number that ranked seventh in the NFL – was more than the likes of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Santana Moss, Steve Smith and Marvin Harrison.

Most NFL rookie receivers struggle from day 1. But not Royal. Thanks to a suspension of the team’s leading receiver, Brandon Marshall, for the first game, Royal started from day 1 – and never gave up the job.

“I think it just gets back to hard work and good coaching,” Royal said. “And I’ve had a lot of veteran players who have helped me. They’ve been there for me on and off the field.

“Each guy has played a different role. Brandon Stokley has helped me set up routes and with my release off the line, and he’s also helped me find people to cut my grass and fix my blinds – things like that. Darrell Jackson has shown me what to expect and how to adjust to things, and Brandon Marshall, just seeing the drive in him. He sets the tempo every day in practice.”

Royal was a model of consistency, which came as a surprise considering his rookie status. He caught a pass in every game he played but one and has caught at least five passes in 11 others. His best game came in the season opener against Oakland – a game in which he got the better of former Tech defensive back DeAngelo Hall by catching nine passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. He also caught nine passes in a losing effort to Kansas City and a losing effort to New England. He caught six passes for 164 yards, including one that went 93 yards for a touchdown, in a Denver win over Cleveland.

You want big plays? Well, he made his share. In addition to that 93-yarder against Cleveland, he also caught a 59-yarder for a score against the Jets. He recorded a 71-yard run on an end-around in Denver’s loss to Buffalo late in the season. And he returned a kickoff 95 yards in the Broncos’ loss to Miami midway through the year. He led Denver in kickoff returns with 23 for 600 yards, a 26.1 average.

“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” Royal said of his success. “I wanted to come in and make an impact. I set my goal to start, and I’ve worked hard and made the most of my opportunities.

“The thing with this league is that everyone is good. You hear that all the time when you’re preparing for the draft and then in training camp, but it really is true. No matter what the team’s [opponent’s] record is, you’ve got to be ready to compete.”

Not surprisingly, Royal took a proactive approach in getting ready for this season. Though shocked the Broncos took him in the draft, he wasted little time in getting his hands on Denver’s playbook, immersing himself in the Broncos’ complex scheme under [former] head coach Mike Shanahan. He also came to camp in great shape, and throughout the season, constantly took care of his 5-foot-10, 185-pound body. As a result, he never really hit the ‘rookie’ wall.

“The big thing was the playbook,” he said. “I didn’t want the reason I wasn’t playing to be because I didn’t know the plays. We have a ton of different plays and formations, so I came in and learned it quickly. That way, I could get on the field as early as possible.

“And I’ve been fortunate in keeping my body straight. I have some nicks and bruises, and you’re sore the majority of the week. But usually, you feel good by game day. I took advantage of the hot and cold tubs after practice, and I got a massage twice a week. That helped me a lot.”

Royal has a couple of friendly faces in Denver to keep him company, including defensive end John Engelberger. Now in his fourth season in Denver, the media-shy Engelberger makes sure to give Royal plenty of grief at every opportunity.

“I try to ignore him for the most part,” Royal laughed. “I heard so many stories about him when I was at Tech that I felt like I knew him. But he’s a good guy and a great teammate. It’s nice to have him and CP [Carlton Powell] around.”

Royal reports that Powell, a former Tech defensive tackle who was drafted by Denver in the fifth round in April’s draft and missed the entire season with a torn Achilles tendon, is recovering well and should be ready for organized team activities in the offseason.

He also reports that his mother, Pearl, is doing well and still living in northern Virginia, and that his sister, Christina – a Tech grad who once served in the Corps of Cadets – recently got back from Iraq in time for Christmas.

Overall, Royal loves Denver. He has bought a home there and he speaks glowingly of the fans.

“I really like it,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect when I got here, but the fans here are great. They are very supportive and the stadium [Invesco Field at Mile High] is so loud. It reminds me of Lane Stadium.”

HOKIES IN THE PROS (30 overall as of Jan. 8)

Buffalo Bills

93 Chris Ellis – Ellis, whom the Bills took in the third round of April’s NFL Draft, played as a back-up this season. He was not activated for the first five games, but the Bills activated him for the sixth game (he did not play), and for the season, he played in seven games. His year came to an end with four games left because of an ankle injury, as the Bills put him on injured reserve. He finished with three tackles – all solo.

Chicago Bears

27 Kevin Jones – Jones signed with the Bears in the offseason and played a little in the early going. But he was not placed on the active roster in five of the final six games of the season. As a result, he rushed for 109 yards on 34 carries (second on the team in both categories) and caught two passes for five yards.

Cincinnati Bengals

17 Shayne Graham – Graham, a former Tech kicker, started 14 of 16 games with the Bengals this season, missing two games because of a groin injury. He made 21 of his 24 field-goal attempts, with a long of 45 yards, and all of his 15 extra-point attempts.

Cleveland Browns

27 Nick Sorensen – Sorensen just wrapped up his eighth NFL season, participating mostly on special teams for the Browns, while also serving as a back-up at the safety spots. He played in all 16 games and had 26 tackles (20 solo) and a half of a sack.

Denver Broncos

60 John Engelberger – Engelberger, a former defensive lineman at Tech, started the first six games this season at defensive end before missing a game with an injured knee. After the injury, he worked in a reserve role and played in 15 of 16 games for the season. He finished with 31 tackles (24 solo) and a sack on the season.

75 Carlton Powell – The Broncos took the former Tech defensive tackle in the fifth round of this past April’s NFL Draft, but he did not play this season. Powell tore his Achilles tendon during an offseason workout and missed the entire season.

19 Eddie Royal – Royal started 15 games, missing one game with an ankle injury. He caught 91 passes for 980 yards and five touchdowns. He also returned 14 punts for an average of 10 yards per return and rushed 11 times for 109 yards. And he returned 23 kickoffs for an average of 26.1 yards per return, including a long of 95 yards.

Green Bay Packers

37 Aaron Rouse – Rouse, a third-round pick in 2007, started six games and played in 14 overall for the Packers this season. He missed separate games with an ankle and knee injury. He recorded 53 tackles (39 solo) and two interceptions this season, one of which he returned 99 yards for a touchdown.

Houston Texans

11 André Davis – Davis, who just wrapped up his seventh NFL season, served as the third receiver for the Texans and played in 12 of the Texans’ 16 games this season – he missed four games because of an injured finger. He caught 13 passes for 213 yards and returned 43 kickoffs for 993 yards, an average of 23.1 yards per return.

76 Duane Brown – Brown went to the Texans in the first round of this past April’s NFL Draft and started every game at left tackle for the team. He played pretty well – he only committed four penalties this season.

52 Xavier Adibi – The Texans drafted the former Tech linebacker in April, and after a slow start to the season, he worked his way into the starting lineup, starting five games in a row. He missed the last two games with a groin injury, though. He tallied 35 tackles (27 solo) on the year – 15 of those coming in a game against Indianapolis.

Jacksonville Jaguars

20 Pierson Prioleau – Prioleau signed with the Jaguars in the offseason to be a back-up at both safety spots and to play on special teams. He played in every game this season, starting one of those, and had 26 tackles (25 solo) on the season.

75 Jonathan Lewis – The former Tech defensive tackle landed with the Jaguars in mid-August and expected to add depth to their line. But Lewis suffered a knee injury in the preseason finale against Washington and missed the season.

Kansas City Chiefs

24 Brandon Flowers – Flowers, a rookie, started 12 games for Kansas City and played in 14 – he missed two games with a hamstring injury. The 2008 second-round pick ranked fifth on the team with 69 tackles (62 solo) on the season and two interceptions.

New Orleans Saints

68 Matt Lehr – Lehr’s contract was terminated in early September, but the Saints re-signed him shortly thereafter. The former Tech offensive lineman and nine-year veteran started three games and played in 13 this season.

New York Jets

17 David Clowney – Clowney, who just finished his second season in the NFL, was activated for the first time this season when the Jets activated him for their game against Kansas City. For the season, the former Tech receiver played in three games and caught one pass for 26 yards.

Oakland Raiders

64 Jake Grove – The former Tech center finished his fifth season with Oakland and started 12 of 16 games of the season. He suffered an injured calf midway through the year and missed four games. For the season, he committed just three penalties.

San Francisco 49ers

84 Josh Morgan – Morgan, a 2008 sixth-round pick, started one game and played in 12 overall, missing four games with a groin injury. He caught 20 passes for 319 yards (16 ypc) and three touchdowns – including a “Hail Mary” against St. Louis that won the game for the 49ers. He also played on special teams, finishing with four tackles, including three solo ones.

Seattle Seahawks

55 Darryl Tapp – After starting all of last season, the former Tech defensive end finally broke into the starting lineup this season after playing as a reserve in the first five games. He started the final 11 games of this season and had 55 tackles (43 solo) and four sacks.

St. Louis Rams

69 Anthony Davis – The former Tech offensive tackle started the season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played in four games. But the Bucs released him on Oct. 25. He went unemployed for nearly a month until the Rams signed him on Nov. 18. He was not activated for any of the Rams’ games this season.

Washington Redskins

23 DeAngelo Hall – Hall was abruptly released by the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 5th, but signed a one-year, $429,000 deal with the Washington Redskins just two days later. He played in seven games for the Redskins, starting two of those. He registered 25 tackles (20 solo) and two interceptions with the Redskins. For the season, he recorded 73 tackles (63 solo) and five interceptions.

63 Will Montgomery – Montgomery started the season with the Jets, but the Jets cut him on Oct. 14. The former Tech center signed with the Redskins on Dec. 9, but was not activated for any of their games.
HOKIES IN THE PLAYOFFS The following Hokies have participated in or are participating in the NFL playoffs:

Arizona Cardinals

25 Eric Green – The former Tech cornerback has played in 14 games for the Cardinals this season, starting nine of those. He missed one game because of a knee injury and was not activated for two others. Overall, he has 32 tackles (27 solo) and an interception, the second of his career, this season.

Baltimore Ravens

Justin Harper – Harper, a seventh-round pick of the Ravens, stuck with Baltimore throughout training camp, but was dropped during the last series of cuts before opening day. The Ravens ultimately signed him to their practice squad and he spent the entire season there.

Carolina Panthers

50 James Anderson – Anderson serves as a back-up at the weakside linebacker spot for the Panthers this season. He was not activated for the first six games this season, but has played in the final six games and in eight games overall. He has three tackles (all solo) on the season.

87 Jeff King – King serves as the starter at tight end for the Panthers and has started 11 of 12 games this season. He has 21 catches for 195 yards, an average of 9.3 yards per catch, and has one touchdown. He caught his first touchdown reception of the season in the Panthers’ 31-22 win over the Lions.

Miami Dolphins

18 Ernest Wilford – Wilford, Tech’s all-time leading receiver, signed a big deal with the Dolphins in the offseason, but never got it going under new coach Tony Sparano. He caught just three passes for 25 yards and played in just seven of Miami’s games.

76 Brandon Frye – Frye started the season with the Houston Texans, but has landed with the Miami Dolphins, who signed him in early November. The former Tech offensive tackle played in eight games with the Dolphins – the first game action of his young NFL career – with most of his action coming on the field-goal and kickoff return teams.

Tennessee Titans

22 Vincent Fuller – The former Tech defensive back has excelled in Tennessee for the Titans, having seen action in every game (one start). He has 47 tackles, including 37 solo stops, and he has recovered a fumble and forced a fumble.

Jason Murphy – Murphy, a former Tech guard, ended up being cut by the Titans in late August. But the Titans signed him to their practice squad a couple of days later and he spent the rest of the season there.