What started out on torn-up area Pee Wee league fields has taken a journey that now plays out on the tailored carpet of the Tampa Bay Times Forum — and just about every area football surface in between.
Welcome Terrence Royal's world.
"I've always wanted to be here in Tampa," Royal, a fullback/defensive lineman for the Storm, said. "Some of it has been luck of the draw, but it's my home and I love it here."
If there ever was to be a Mr. Tampa Football Award, Royal would have to be under strong consideration. Royal has starred at Wharton, the University of South Florida and now with the Storm. Every home game he's ever played in has been in Hillsborough County.
"I have a close family and there's nothing better than to look up in the stands and see your parents or grandparents," Royal said. "It gives you such a rush. There's nothing better than playing at home."
At Wharton, Royal was a two-time all-state honorable mention player at linebacker before heading to USF. As a Bull, Royal switched to defensive line in order to get on the field faster.
Royal excelled on the line, putting his name in the USF record books in the process. He ranks fourth all-time with 47.5 tackles for a loss and his 10 sacks in 2005 are the second best single-season total behind George Selvie's 14.5. Royal is third on the career sack list with 19.5 and second all-time with six fumble recoveries.
"I loved playing (at USF)," Royal said. "We built a lot of things."
Royal was invited to Buccaneers' camp as an undrafted free agent but found his niche when he signed with the Storm in 2008.
"The game was so, so much faster," he said. "A lot of people can't make that switch. They can play outdoor (football) but not indoor. But it fit me perfectly."
After two years on defense, Royal again made a position switch, this time to fullback. In his time with the Storm, Royal's split time between linebacker, defensive line and fullback but said he can't decide which he prefers.
"On offense, it's fun to pancake somebody," he said. "But I like to hit people too and talk trash. It's a different perspective on each side of the ball."
Coach Dave Ewart said Royal's versatility is a throwback to the original two-way AFL players.
"We like him on offense because of his athleticism," he said. "But he can jump in and play defense if we need to. He gives you that option and that's very valuable."
Royal inked a deal last week for his fourth season with the Storm, but his signing brought mixed feelings. To make room on the roster for Royal, the Storm released quarterback and former USF teammate Matt Grothe.
"I remember when he first came to USF and he would just give us hell on the scout team," Royal said. "I told him he was going to be something special and you saw what he did at USF. He was like a little brother to me but he understands it's a business now but I have a strong feeling he'll be back (with the Storm) at some point."
Royal said he's not sure how much longer he'll play the game but there is one thing he would love to add to his Tampa resume — a championship.
"I've thought about quitting but I love to play this game too much," he said. "I probably won't stop until a coach tells me I'm too old but I want to bring a title home to Tampa."
Brandon Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.