Ken McRoyal is still on the minds of the Idaho Vandals, perhaps no more so than this week.
Idaho's game at No. 3 LSU tonight would have been a homecoming for McRoyal, a wide receiver who was shot to death in May at a party in Los Angeles.
He is buried in nearby Metarie, La.
"Kenny's still a member of this team," Idaho coach Robb Akey said. "I do feel, and our players feel, that he is still with us."
McRoyal played two seasons at El Camino Junior College in Torrance, Calif., before walking on to the Vandals last fall. He had just earned a scholarship for the 2012 season before the players dispersed for their homes following the end of classes last spring.
His Vandal teammates honor him before every game. When they run onto the field before the game, one of the players carries a battle ax, representing the Vandals. Another carries an American flag which was flown in Afghanistan. Another player carries a Team McRoyal flag, signifying McRoyal entering the stadium with his teammates.
“He had a very outgoing, very lively personality,” Akey said. “He was very exuberant, he was always going, and his teammates love him, and miss him a great deal.”
Akey, the team captains, several assistant coaches and around 30 of the players attended McRoyal’s service in L.A. A similar service was held later for family members in Louisiana.
McRoyal attended high school in Carson, Calif. His listed hometown is New Orleans.
“There’s gonna be a number of family members there (at tonight’s game), like they were going to be to see him play,” Akey said. “They’re going to be there to see his family play.”
As for the game itself, Idaho (0-2) is a six-touchdown underdog against LSU (2-0), which apparently wasn’t looking ahead to the Vandals last week as it trounced the Washington Huskies 41-3.
With Dominique Blackman seeing his first action as a Vandal at quarterback last week, Idaho played better against Bowling Green than it did in the season opener vs. Eastern Washington. Playing LSU, however, is obviously a far different gauge for Idaho.
“It will be a hell of an experience for our players,” Akey said. “We have nothing to lose. We’re going to go pin our ears back and go down there and get after it. If we don’t win the football game then we made everybody happy because they all told us we couldn’t. Should we play our tails off and make some things happen and you get that opportunity, then we could be the favorite football team in America — with maybe the exception of the State of Louisiana.”
The game is available on TV only through LSU’s TigerVision, a pay-per-view service. It is also being shown on ESPN’s GamePlan, but is being blacked out in Idaho and Louisiana.