Coach Spotlight: Sheldon Royster
"Sheldon is just a pure athlete," said St. Peter's Prep head coach Rich Hansen. "He has excellent hands, size, and speed to play almost any of the skill positions. We've used him at flex receiver, safety, cornerback, and have had him run the ball out of the backfield."
As a sophomore, Royster took over at free safety for the departed Will Hill at Prep. It wouldn't be long into that season when colleges began taking notice of Royster's playmaking ability.
"His tremendous athleticism was evident early on," said Hansen. "We knew if he continued to work hard he'd have an opportunity to continue playing after high school, and he did."
Rutgers was the first school to begin showing interest in Royster. After a big junior showing with 645 yards both rushing and receiving with seven touchdowns and 65 tackles, three interceptions, five pass breakups, and a forced fumble, it was clear Division 1 football was in Royster's future.
"This year, as a senior, he made some big plays for us, especially on defense and on special teams," Hansen said. "He can play the run exceptional well. At free safety he does some freelancing in the middle and is a big hitter. He was one of our most experienced players and helped steady the defense."
There were many offers for Royster to choose from. West Virginia, Syracuse, Pitt, North Carolina, Miami, Louisville, Illinois were just some of the schools wanting Royster. He narrowed his list to Rutgers, the in-state school where two of his teammates were going, and South Carolina. In a bit of a surprise locally, he opted for the Gamecocks.
"I think he wanted to go play for Coach Spurrier," said Hansen of the decision. "When he went down to Columbia on his official visit it was a place he felt comfortable with and felt like he would fit into the program. I think leaving Jersey and being in a different environment was something he wanted to do. I think he'll probably play safety, but with Sheldon they'll have options."
The Marauders had a good year at 9-2, but were unable to get past New Jersey powerhouse Don Bosco. Unfortunately for Royster, it was the 3rd straight year Don Bosco had eliminated St. Peter's Prep in the playoffs. Royster and teammate Savon Huggins, were named MSG Varsity All-Metro in their senior year.
"Sheldon has done good work in the classroom," said Hansen. "He's developed academic traits which will serve him well in college. He's never in any trouble and has a good moral compass. That's really a reflection and credit to his parents."
From an athletic family, Royster's father is Shelly Archie who was an All-County running back at Jersey City's Lincoln High School. Royster also runs track where he was timed at 10.6 in the 100 meter dash as a sophomore at the SDA Invitational.
"Sheldon's been weight training diligently," said Hansen of his player's off-season preparation. "He wants to get faster and stronger before going to South Carolina in early June. I think he'll have a good chance to see action as a freshman, especially in nickel packages and on special teams."
Hansen said they had a normal press conference at St. Peter's Prep on Signing Day where Keith Lumpkin and Savon Huggins will sign with Rutgers and Royster will sign with South Carolina. Royster wore No. 4 for the Marauders. He'll graduate with his class on May 27th.
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