Royston familiar with both sides of the border

The junior defensive back transferred from Wisconsin after the 2007-08 school year.

Royston familiar with both sides of the border

Austin Cumblad

As best he could, Kim Royston tried to sidestep the hype. âÄúI knew when I made the decision to come here that I was going to have to face my former team,âÄù the junior safety, who transferred from Wisconsin to the Minnesota after the 2007-08 school year , said. âÄúThat day is coming up soon. ItâÄôs going to be a crazy atmosphere; a crazy experience for me because I came into school with a lot of the guys that IâÄôm going to be playing against. âÄúBut once you get on the field, itâÄôs football time.âÄù Still, Royston realizes this isnâÄôt an ordinary game. In addition to the emotions of playing against his ex-program, thereâÄôs the perennial hullabaloo around the battle for the Axe and the one-time hullabaloo around the GophersâÄô first Big Ten game at TCF Bank Stadium. âÄúYeah, itâÄôs hard,âÄù Royston said Tuesday when asked if it will be difficult to keep his emotions in check. âÄúBut this game is hard; the Big Ten is hard. You have to look past it and just go out there and play as hard as you can.âÄù Though he doesnâÄôt speak much about the details of his departure from the Badgers after the 2007 season, the facts of the situation suggest the split was hardly amicable. RoystonâÄôs father, Chris Royston, has taken numerous not-so-subtle shots at Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema and the Badgers since his sonâÄôs transfer. However, Bielema still speaks highly of Kim. âÄúBottom line, we thought the world of Kim [which] is why we offered him [a scholarship] and why he was here,âÄù Bielema said. âÄúWhen he was here, I would have done anything for him, and to this day, other than the game against us, I would root for Kim.âÄù By anything, Bielema didnâÄôt mean grant Royston a release to contact a school minutes away from where he grew up in St. Paul. Royston was released to several schools; Minnesota was not one of them. Big Ten rules already prevented Royston from receiving a scholarship with the Gophers, but without a release, NCAA rules also prevented him from having any contact with the Minnesota football program until he was enrolled as a student. Though he had permission to correspond with and the opportunity to receive scholarships from the likes of Boston College, Oregon and Iowa State, Royston made a decision many might consider crazy. But if actions speak louder than words, his choice to transfer to Minnesota screamed that, above anything else, the Cretin-Derham Hall graduate wanted to return home. Royston practiced but could not play in 2008 because of NCAA transfer rules; in 2009, Royston is a starting safety and now two days from playing in the nationâÄôs oldest rivalry against former teammates and current friends. Isaac Anderson is a junior wide receiver for Wisconsin and RoystonâÄôs best friend, one of many Badgers Royston said he still stays in close contact with. âÄúI tried to stay away from communication this week, but âĦ I obviously have a lot of friends [at Wisconsin],âÄù he said. âÄúWeâÄôve been talking about how crazy itâÄôs going to be actually playing against each other.âÄù Royston said thereâÄôs a little friendly trash talk but not much more. If he harbors any sore feelings for teammates, coaches or the program, heâÄôs not admitting it. But junior quarterback Adam Weber said Royston is ready. âÄúI know Kim is a very intense person,âÄù Weber said. âÄú[I] know he is looking forward to this game and I am glad he is playing for us because he is a heck of a player.âÄù Having now seen it from both sides, Royston knows how big the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry is, but he will play a major role in it for the first time. He appeared in both the 2006 and 2007 victories for the Badgers but recorded only one tackle between the two games . This year, he is fifth on the Gophers defense in tackles with 17 and has one of MinnesotaâÄôs two interceptions . That pick came just before halftime a week ago against Northwestern on his own 2-yard line. âÄúBeing a part of both locker rooms, I can tell you this game is very important to both teams,âÄù Royston said. âÄúBoth teams are going to come out willing to do anything to win.âÄù