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Top 100: Eddie Royal, Football, 2003

Westfield was trailing early in the 2003 Group AAA Division 6 state championship game. It was a position that the Bulldogs had not been in very often that season.

A defensive stop forced their opponent, Landsdown, to punt.

Waiting to receive the punt, Senior Eddie Royal was in a position that he had been in many times. It was a position that he preferred.

"Being in the open field and being able to make plays is what I love to do," said Royal. "Whenever I have some space, I feel dangerous."

Royal received the punt and took the ball 47 yards for a touchdown.

"That [play] changed the entire state championship game," said Westfield head coach Tom Verbanic.

Westfield won the game 35-14.

The return was the last of many defining moments for the receiver and kick returner at Westfield, but it wasn't the last time that Royal got into the open field and felt dangerous.

Joining former Westfield quarterback Sean Glennon, Royal signed on to play for Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech Hokies and had an immediate impact.

In his freshman year, Royal started 11-out-of-13 games as the team's flanker. He led the team with 28 catches for 470 yards and three touchdowns.

"[Jumping to the college level] wasn't that difficult for me," said Royal. "I could adapt to the speed of the game. As far as the mental aspect of the game, I just prepared myself for that. I came to college prepared and ready to play."

Verbanic was not surprised by Royal's collegiate success.

"His success doesn't shock me," he said. "He is the fastest player that I have ever seen in high school. His acceleration is unbelievable."

ROYAL WAS preparing himself to play at the college level from the moment he joined the Westfield football team his junior year. A former running back and quarterback at South Lakes and Paul VI, Royal changed his position to wide receiver.

"I knew that I wouldn't be able to play Division I football as a quarterback because of my height," said Royal. "I decided to move to receiver because I had good speed and pretty good hands."

Verbanic placed Eddie in the flanker role in order to use him as a receiver and put him in motion to run the ball.

"Teams felt like they had to put two people on him to cover him," said Verbanic.

In his junior year, Royal had 48 pass receptions for 905 yards and 11 touchdowns. As Landsdown would learn, he was also a dangerous kick returner. During his high school career, Royal returned ten kicks for touchdowns.

"He is one of the best kick returners that I have seen in Northern Virginia," said Verbanic. "At one point, Eddie had handled thirteen kicks or punts and had returned six of them for touchdowns."

Westfield went 10-0 in the regular season that year but were upset in the first playoff round by Centreville.

"They felt like they had more to do," said Verbanic.

Eddie bounced back his senior year to have 41 pass receptions for 875 yards and 11 touchdowns. Seven of the fourteen games that Westfield played that year, Royal, as well as most of the team's starters, didn't play in the second half because they were leading by four touchdowns at the half.

The season culminated with the state championship game in which Royal added a one-yard touchdown run to his punt return.

AFTER THE season, Eddie began exploring his options for college. When he saw that Glennon had committed to Virginia Tech, he knew where he was going to go.

"It opened my eyes up to the fact that I could get to play with him again," said Royal.

Last season, Royal caught 27 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushing for 79 yards and a touchdown while Glennon maintained his role as the number two starter behind Marcus Vick. This year, with Glennon fighting for the starting quarterback spot, Royal and Glennon could again be connecting for touchdowns in Lane Stadium.

"We talked about it at Westfield and now we have the opportunity to make it happen," said Royal.

Glennon is also excited about tossing passes to Royal.

"Hopefully we will be connecting for touchdowns again," said Glennon. "It looks like there is the possibility for that this year."

Eddie Royal is 67 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.