The first play that the Fairfax Rebels ran against Paul VI during Brandon Royster’s senior season was a trick play. Quarterback Ian McAlpine tossed a pass near the sideline to wide receiver Mike Daniels, who before getting hit, tossed the ball backwards to Brandon Royster. Royster, without being touched, ran the ball into the end zone for a touchdown.
"Brandon didn’t break stride and ran full speed down the field," said former teammate Chris Ward, remembering the play.
Royster remembers how both McAlpine and Daniels were leveled on the play, while he was the one that got all the glory in the end zone.
"We always make fun of it because on that play, McAlpine throws the ball and he gets leveled by the defensive end, Daniels catches it and gets leveled by the defensive back and I get to trot into the end zone," he said.
Those are the things that Royster remembers during his time at Fairfax – the fun that he had playing the game.
"Looking back, one game over the other is insignificant – it’s just the experience overall. I loved playing high school football. It was so much different than the college game," said Royster. "It was pure fun the entire time. It’s great when you’re winning and having success."
Royster certainly found success at Fairfax. During his junior and senior years, the Rebels went undefeated in the regular season. During his four years at the varsity level, Royster rushed for more than 5,300 yards and scored 60 touchdowns.
"He was an outstanding player and everybody knew that. He just made other people look good," said Ward.
ROYSTER BEGAN playing football in the third grade. According to his mother, Dawna, Royster was always an athletic child. His previous football experience gave him an advantage when he entered high school.
"I think that he stood out right away," said Dawna.
He stood out so much that head coach Tom Verbanic decided to start the freshman at running back. Royster didn’t find out that he would be starting until he heard his name announced on the loud speaker before the game.
"That very first game was kind of a shock," said Royster. "After you get your first couple of licks out there, it's just playing the game. I got over it pretty quick. It was a great opportunity – getting a chance early."
Although a leader due to his ability, Royster remained quiet at practice.
"I was a pretty quiet person in general," he said. "I led more by example then anything else. I was only vocal when I had to be."
Brandon credits the team’s success to the core group of seniors, including Daniels, McAlpine and Ward, along with coach Verbanic.
"He is exactly what every high school coach should be. He is a great leader and has a great football sense," said Royster of Verbanic, who ended up coaching Royster’s younger brother, Evan, at Westfield.
Under Verbanic, Fairfax went 10-0 in the regular season during Royster’s junior and senior years but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
"We would have liked to go further," said Royster. "But to have two undefeated seasons in the regular season is pretty remarkable."
WITH HIS SUCCESS came college offers. At first, Royster didn’t know what to expect.
"You kind of take it as it comes. I was grateful for all of the attention, but later on you realize that you’re just a piece of meat. It is a tough process at times because you have so many people that want to talk to you," said Royster. "It was definitely a good experience, but I’m glad I don’t have to do it anymore."
Royster fielded offers from many Division I schools and eventually decided on going to Stanford.
"Unquestionably, Stanford is one of the top educational facilities in the country. I did well in high school, so I didn’t want to sell myself short from that aspect," said Royster, who was Valedictorian of his class.
Dawna agreed with his decision.
"Brandon is brilliant. I encouraged him to go to a school where he could challenge himself academically," she said. "Football comes and goes but his education will stay with him. Stanford was the right fit for Brandon."
ROYSTER REDSHIRTED during his first year at Stanford and a knee injury hampered most of his playing time during his college career. Royster stayed on the team as wide receiver and on special teams. He was also a member of the track team for his first two years of college. Although not having a spectacular career on the football team, Royster excelled academically. He recently received his master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
While done with his football career, Royster will have the opportunity to watch Evan play for Penn State this fall.
"From an early age, you knew that Evan was the most talented," he said. "It was kind of expected, but its great to see him have so much success."