NIU’s Royster scores in clutch

By Carl Ackerman

Making the most of opportunities is what makes a player stand out from the rest.

Although his opportunities have been limited this season, Huskies’ tight end Claude Royster has been successful in the clutch.

The 6-3, 228-pound senior has caught three passes this season, but more amazingly all three have been for touchdowns.

Prior to this season, Royster had only caught three touchdown passes in three years (1987-89).

“Most defenses don’t expect me to go out for passes, but when I do it’s usually a big play that turns out very successful,” Royster said.

Royster’s most recent and most important touchdown reception was in NIU’s 31-28 victory over Akron last Saturday. He scored the game-winning touchdown on a five-yard pass from quarterback Stacey Robinson with 3:19 left in the game.

is other two touchdowns were a 47-yard reception against Arkansas and a 46-yarder against Murray State.

“I don’t anticipate many more passes coming to me because I think the other teams are going to keep an eye on me, especially in crucial situations (fourth down or short-yardage plays)” said Royster.

Whether he receives many more passes or not remains to be seen, but head coach Jerry Pettibone agrees Royster is a big surprise threat to NIU’s oppostion.

“The majority of what he does is blocking. So when we create a situation to throw the ball it usually turns into a big play. That’s the nature of the wishbone offense,” Pettibone said.

Leadership is one of the qualities for Royster, who has been a starter since the 1987 season.

“I’m not a vocal leader,” Royster said. “I try to do things on the field that will motivate others.”

In Pettibone’s eyes Royster must be doing something right. Royster has become a tri-captain for the Huskies and is an All-Midwest candidate for 1990.

“If I had to take an example of one person to put out in front of the public to say this is what NIU football is, it would be Claude Royster,” Pettibone said.

Royster has certainly come a long way since first arriving at NIU. During his red-shirt freshman year he began playing as a wide receiver. He later moved to the tight end position that same year. In order to keep this position, he was put on a weight program. Royster has beefed himself up 40 pounds since his first year and has earned the starting role his last four years.

During his NIU tenure, Royster has learned a lot from the NIU program.

“The coaches have done a really good job,” Royster said. “Their No. 1 priority is the team itself. They stress academics and to do the right things on and off the field. They teach you to grow as a person, not just a player. It’s helped me a lot. I’ve matured many ways.

“I’ve improved as a blocker and I have learned more about footwork and what it takes to be a successful blocker. I’ve improved in the option offense and I’ve learned to be disciplined. Most of all I’ve learned to be a leader,” Royster said.