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Lancers Tailback Prefers Action to Words : Bishop Amat's Mazio Royster Credits Hard Work for His Success

November 12, 1987|SCOT BUTWELL | Times Staff Writer

When the media turned out before the start of the football season to take pictures of Bishop Amat's top prospects, the player who was to replace graduated superstar Eric Bieniemy hid.

When girls at school asked him if he was going to be like Eric, he avoided the question.

He only said wait until the first game and watch.

Mazio Royster figured it best to use the low-key approach to replacing Bieniemy, who rushed for 4,882 yards and 64 touchdowns in three years as the Lancers' tailback and led the team to a 30-5-1 record.

But when you have to replace a Bieniemy, you better be ready, and Royster, a 6-1, 179-pound senior, was that.

In his backyard, and wearing his football helmet, he practiced moves that he would put on defenders. He awoke before dawn to run.

"I wanted to gain notoriety for my performance on the field, not by what I say or how I look in newspapers," Royster said.

With 1,187 yards and 13 touchdowns through nine games, Royster's performances looks good on the field and in print.

He has led Bishop Amat to a 9-0 record and No. 3 ranking in the CIF Southern Section's Big Five Conference poll.

Royster's success didn't come easily.

The shift from fullback to tailback was at first a problem.

"I was used to hitting guys but now I have to fake them," he said. "In spring practice, I'd break into open field and find myself stumbling. Before I'd be colliding and bumping into defenders and now I had all this space that I wasn't used to."

He figured the answer was to work.

"I worked real hard in the summer lifting weights and running sprints, except for a couple of times I got lackadaisical. Then I'd think to myself, 'If I was Eric, what would he do?' I knew the answer and I would do another sprint. He's like a guardian angel to me.

"He (Eric) told me to not let anything stop me. The only thing that will stop you is yourself. I'll never forget that."

Royster's success wasn't immediate.

At half time of the season opener, Royster had carried the ball only three times for 11 yards. He had planned on carrying 20 to 25 times, like Bieniemy, and rushing for over 200 yards.

He finished the game with 99 yards on 14 carries, not bad but also not noteworthy.

Royster ran the ball only 10 times for 79 yards in his second outing and wasn't satisfied with either of his first two performances.

"He was sort of down," said Charlie Cook, a friend and teammate. "He wanted to have the same type of season as Eric."

But Royster pulled himself together after his father, Stanley, told him he had to earn the coaches' confidence to carry the ball.

"I worked hard in practice to impress the coaches and got up every morning to run hills," Royster said. "I knew I'd have a big game in our third game against Long Beach Poly."

Ahead 7-0 late in the second quarter, Bishop Amat faced a first-and-goal situation at the Poly 6. Four times Coach Mark Paredes called Royster's number and four times the ball didn't cross the end zone.

When he came off the field, Royster told Paredes he was tired and shouldn't have been given the ball four consecutive times.

He recalls vividly Paredes' answer:

"You can't afford to be tired. If you're tired, we lose."

Since that talk, Royster has been unstoppable. He finished the Poly game with 31 carries for 164 yards as Amat won, 21-0.

During the past seven games, Royster has averaged 144 yards a contest.

"We didn't expect him to become the focal part of our offense," Paredes said. "But when he rushes for 150, 160 yards, you make him the focal point of the offense.

"He's doing as good a job as our past three tailbacks, who are now playing at Division I schools," said Paredes, in reference to Bieniemy (Colorado), Randy Tanner (USC) and Pernell Taylor (Notre Dame). "He's right up there with them."

"It's just hitting me now--I'm the main guy," said Royster, who rushed for 707 yards last season. "If the team needs a big play, coach calls on me."

And after the season, Royster probably wouldn't mind if his picture was next to the last three main men at Bishop Amat--Bieniemy, Tanner and Taylor.

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