Character Counts for Former NFL Running Back Evan Royster

Name: Evan Royster

Profession: Director, Global Partnerships – Sports & Entertainment at EverFi

Age: 29

What is your inspiration? I’m inspired by challenges. In my opinion, there’s no better feeling than mastering something that didn’t come easy. 

How did you know and when did you realize that this is what you wanted and were meant to do?

I realized that I really enjoy doing what I do pretty early on. My first day on the job was at an event we were running around the 2016 NFL Draft for our Character Playbook partnership with the NFL and United Way. Through this program, we bring NFL players to schools in their local market to talk about healthy relationships and building character. Many professional athletes and entertainers don’t realize the platform they have to affect change in their communities. In my work, I get to connect current and former professional athletes to communities through a cause that is personally meaningful.

What do you believe is your greatest achievement personally and/or professionally? 

Being the all-time leading rusher at Penn State is what I consider to be my greatest achievement. I was never the most physically gifted athlete, so I wanted to prove to everyone wrong—including myself—by accomplishing something that few others are able to do. Similarly, at EverFi, every day I am able to create impactful opportunities for young people by leveraging our partnership with the NFL and United Way to accomplish things that few people have ever accomplished and in communities that need it most. I get that same feeling of achievement I felt back at Penn State with each student and school I connect with through Character Playbook.

How do leaders like yourself break through the static and make an impact amongst your peers?

Lead by example. To some, that may seem cliché, but a leader that work hard every day will inspire the same from their peers. I relate so much of my life to sports. As an athlete, I despised the “leaders” who would yell and scream about what should be happening then forget their own responsibility. Here at EverFi, I am hoping to be an example to other athletes and inspire them to find a cause that resonates with their own values and then commit to action.

What, in your opinion has been one of the most challenging moments that you’ve experienced, and why? 

My most challenging moment was the end of my NFL career. I was in denial, depressed, and completely unaware that I had the skills needed to succeed outside of football. I felt like the cautionary tale that every rookie hears as they enter the NFL. “The average NFL career is short. Prepare for what’s next.” Great advice, but it wasn’t exactly what 23-year-old me wanted to hear. Luckily, I had a really great support system to get me through the rough patch. I was fortunate to not only survive this challenging transition but to find a renewed purpose, commitment, and passion.

Do you believe that men of color are championed enough in the mainstream? If so, in what regard?

I believe more attention needs to be brought to the men who are doing great things from the football field to the front office and on-the-ground at the front lines in our communities. We need to show young men of color that there are unlimited paths to success beyond a professional sports career.

Why is it important that BE Modern Men like you are represented in your specific industry or within the work that you do? 

It’s important that the students I encounter through Character Playbook see men like myself and others that they look up to openly discuss topics that are crucial to their development as well-rounded human beings—especially students of color. I wake up every day understanding the unique impression and impact I am able to make on a young person just by being exactly where I am.

As a man with a strong character, how do you see your own impact within your community?

I’m lucky enough to spend a lot of time in schools with the kids who are directly impacted by Character Playbook. I hope that my efforts inspire other men, maybe even some of my former teammates, to make a personal commitment to impact our communities.

Mainstream media often paints people of color inside a box, one that limits them to a shortlist of stereotypes. How do you see your own narrative as enabling others to change the conversation and break free from the conventions placed upon the African American community?

Mainstream media can be a powerful tool that can shed light on critical issues and hold the larger community accountable for things that need to change. I refuse to give any person or institution the power to limit my potential, and that includes the media. We are responsible for telling and sharing a narrative that sets the tone for others to respect and celebrate who we are and all that we have accomplished as a community.

What does BE Modern Man mean to you?

The BE Modern Man to me is a relentless difference-maker. A man that isn’t waiting for change to happen, but is making it happen. No matter how much he accomplishes, he continues to take on the next obstacle head on with 100% effort and a smile on his face.

It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @blackenterprise and join the BE Modern Man conversation using #BEModernMan.