Royster Heartened by Support

Penn State redshirt freshman tailback lost two friends in the recent Virginia Tech tragedy, both of whom went to his high school. The man behind the killing spree also attended the school, though he graduated three years before Royster.

Penn State's Blue-White Game Saturday held special meaning for redshirt freshman tailback Evan Royster, and not only because it was his first opportunity to play before a crowd in Beaver Stadium.

Royster, you see, is a product of Westfield High in Fairfax, Va., a school that was devastated by last Monday's killing spree at Virginia Tech.

“One guy, who was a senior when I was a freshman, actually did the shooting,” Royster said, referring to Seung-Hui Cho. A 2003 Westfield graduate, Cho massacred 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus before killing himself.

Among his victims were two of Royster's classmates at Westfield, Reema Samaha and Erin Peterson.

“They were just two of the greatest girls you could meet,” Royster said. Samaha was renowned for her work in Westfield's theatre program and Peterson played for the girl's basketball team, according to a press release from the school.

Having three people — especially the two victims — tied to the mass murder prompted Westfield administrators to offer professional counseling support for any students who needed it.

“My mom taught at my high school, so she said the whole school was a mess all week,” Royster said.

Meanwhile, the 2006 graduates found themselves reaching out to one another.

“Everybody who went off to college last year and graduated with the two people that died … I got calls from a bunch of people just trying to talk to me about it,” said Royster, who was heavily recruited by Virginia Tech. “It hurt everybody bad.”

For Royster, Saturday was part of the healing process. On the field, he was able to refocus on football, carrying nine times for 45 yards to lead the victorious White squad. And when he looked up in the stands he saw a record crowd of 71,000, a majority of them clad in maroon and/or orange to honor the victims of the Virginia Tech tragedy.

Before the game, offensive tackle Gerald Cadogan read a statement to the massive crowd, saying the Penn State family was there to help its friends at Virginia Tech any way it could. “We are … with you,” he said. That was followed by a moment of silence and the Blue Band — all clad in Orange — playing “Amazing Grace.”

“It is touching to see how many people care,” Royster said. “Even though some of them may not have known the people, it had a big effect on our country. It is bringing everybody together even more.”

Premium members can hear Mark Brennan's entire interview with Royster. In it, the running back talks about his progress in spring practice, where he stands on the depth chart, the Virginia Tech tragedy and more. Note, this file is audio only.

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