This story originally ran in the program for the 59th NFF Annual Awards Dinner, where Bill Royce was officially inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Dec. 6, 2016.
- Named First-Team All-American and the Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference Player of the Year in 1993.
- Recorded 366 career tackles, including 71 sacks.
- Helped guide team to best four-year record in school history (33-10-1).
- Played for College Football Hall of Fame coach Fred Martinelli.
- Becomes the first Eagle player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame.
Bill Royce was a nearly unstoppable tackler at the NCAA Division II level when he played for Ashland University. In fact, his 71 career sacks were eye-popping totals before the NCAA started charting them on the national level. During his brilliant, four-year career, he posted the top three single-season sack marks in school history.
“Bill was a phenomenal player,” said Al King, Ashland University Director of Athletics. “He was the conference player of the year and a Harlon Hill candidate (National Division II Player of the Year Award), and that was unheard of for a defensive player. There were games when teams found it nearly impossible to block Bill. Teams would run two and three blockers at him, and he still got pressure on the pocket, and many times, got a sack.”
The first person Royce called last January when he found out he was going into the Hall was his old coach at Ashland, Dr. Fred Martinelli, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
“To say he was excited would be an understatement,” Royce said. “We were laughing later because he began to coach me again in regards to this award, how to prepare for the dinner/recognition, media requests, etc.
“The best advice he gave all of his players was to ‘Get up when you are knocked down and never give up on yourself or your teammates,’ and ‘Guys, you will never be with a more special group of individuals than you are right now,’ in reference to our college teammates, coaches, trainers, equipment managers.”
Lightly recruited out of high school, Royce received zero scholarship offers from Division I schools. Despite the fact he was growing, getting stronger and playing offense as well defense, only a few Mid-American schools in his Ohio area offered him the opportunity to be a “preferred walk-on.” Finally, Division II Ashland gave him a scholarship, and he showed many schools what they had missed.
Royce was named a First Team All-American in 1993 after posting a single-season school record 20.5 sacks. He would also lead the team in sacks in 1991 and 1992, finishing with an astounding 71 in his career, though it was not an officially kept stat until 2000. The team’s defensive MVP and team captain in both his junior and senior seasons, Royce led the Eagles to national rankings three times while guiding the team to its best four-year record in school history at 33-10-1.
“It was a combination of things: first step, techniques, attitude, formation recognition/tendencies, pre-snap reads, field vision, defensive teammates, and practicing very hard each day,” Royce said of developing his defensive prowess. “I used several techniques: Bull, Punch, Rip, Swim, and always kept guys away from my legs and kept good leverage. I was blessed with speed and strength and could use both hands rushing out of either a two-point or three-point stance.”
Royce currently works for the largest U.S.-based crushing, screening, washing, material-handling manufacturer, Kolberg-Pioneer, Johnson Crushers Inc., and Astec Mobile Screens. He also is an active member of Ashland’s Gridiron Club Board and helps coach the defenses of local high school teams.