Royal returns to Huntington to help coach the Herd
HUNTINGTON -- As Chris Royal looks over the field at Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards Stadium, he can't help but get that feeling in his gut.
He's not originally from Huntington, but that doesn't mean that it isn't home.
Royal, who played free safety for the Marshall football team from 2002 to 2005 and was a team captain in 2005, returned to Marshall to begin his coaching career as a student assistant.
"I always said I wanted to be able to come back here and coach here because of my experiences while I was here," Royal said. "I finally found the time to do it and I've jumped right into it. There's something about this place."
Royal had been playing in the Arena Football ranks with the San Jose Sabercats, but decided to pursue his coaching career after being traded from San Jose to the Utah Blaze in late May.
After talking to Marshall head coach Doc Holliday, Royal joined the staff a few weeks before fall camp opened and is now once again running with the Thundering Herd.
He said it's much different now than his playing days when Marshall was first joining Conference USA.
"Coach Holliday is a lot different from what I've ever been around. He knows football just like the other coaches, but he wants to be more hands-on as far as decision-making and personnel," Royal said. "It's really starting to show, too, because we've got some young guys that can really play.
"This is probably one of the best recruiting classes that I've been around. These freshmen came to Huntington ready to play right now."
In addition to Holliday's prowess in the recruiting game, Royal said the rest of the coaching staff has many years of football knowledge and are helping him get acclimated to life as a coach quickly.
"The coaches that I'm working with are some of the smartest guys around. Some of the things we have in for these players, it's some of the best plans I've ever seen," Royal said. "(Holliday) has surrounded himself with great people -- players and coaches. I'm just lucky to be here."
During Royal's four years at Marshall, the Herd compiled a 29-19 record while making a bowl game in three of the four years.
Also, in 2002 and 2005, Marshall traveled to Lane Stadium to take on Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. -- the last of which came while his brother Eddie Royal was a member of the Hokies' football program. Eddie is now a receiver with the NFL's Denver Broncos.
With Virginia Tech coming to Huntington as the premier home game on Marshall's 2011 slate, Chris Royal said he is especially excited for that Sept. 24 affair.
"It's going to be so much different with them having to come to Huntington. People don't really understand what this place can be like," Royal said.
"I'm sure Eddie and I will be after each other a little bit that week because once you run with the Herd, you always run with the Herd."
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