Member of '92 championship team returns for degree


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Former Alabama linebacker Andre Royal, who was a sophomore on Alabama’s 1992 national championship team, is returning to The University of Alabama to finish his degree in January, 18 years after his days playing for the Crimson Tide came to an end.

Royal was working toward a degree in criminal justice in 1994 when he decided to take his talents to the NFL rather than finish his degree.

Royal was signed on as a free agent for the Cleveland Browns but after being cut was signed by the Carolina Panthers in their inaugural season in 1995. He had a little more than a year left to complete his degree.

“I decided to focus more on football rather than school work,” Royal said.

Royal said he thought at the time he probably wouldn’t return to school to finish his degree but liked the idea of finally returning.

“In my mind, I would say the majority would say no,” he said. “But deep, deep back in my mind, I knew I would come back, because I like completing what I started.”

Regardless of his intent to finish his studies, Royal said he didn’t have a timeline to come back to finish. This became more apparent after his retirement from the NFL in 2000, when every year he considered finishing his degree bad timing kept him from doing so.

“Life’s funny,” Royal said. “I never knew time-wise, but I was always considering, at the first of the year, would that be one thing I tried to do? And it was always put on the back burner.”

Now, 12 years after retiring from the NFL, the timing is finally right. Royal said one of the main reasons for his return to classes was moving back to Tuscaloosa. Instead of having to complete his degree online, he’d be able to work for it on campus. He said he had another reason, too, and one that hit much closer to home.

“My daughter, (Tierra),” Royal said. “…That’s another thing that inspired me, her going off to school and being a freshman. She’s going to a school in Daytona Beach, Embry-Riddle, an aviation and engineering school.”

Even after he made the decision to return to school, however, the process of actually re-enrolling took some time for Royal, who’s been talking with advisors to help him through the process.

Royal said the process of completing “all the little things” to get enrolled has been difficult for him, including whether he would continue working for his degree in criminal justice or try to earn another degree.

Royal has decided to stay on the same track, adding sociology as a minor, and plans to earn both in a year. Royal said he doesn’t plan to do anything with his degree once he attains it, and it isn’t the means to achieve something else, but merely the ends.

“I don’t really have a plan for that,” Royal said. “That wasn’t the goal. The goal is just to get my degree. Getting my degree wasn’t a step toward a final goal.”

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