Catching Up With....Mazio Royster
Oct. 23, 2003
Mazio Royster was USC's starting tailback for much of 1990 and 1991, rushing for 1,760 career yards--20th on the all time Trojan list. A silky smooth runner, he burst onto the scene in 1990 as a sophomore, tallying 1,168 yards on the ground while filling in for the injured Ricky Ervins. He was second on the squad in 1991 with 542 yards, then left early for the NFL and was drafted in the 11th round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After his NFL career, he worked as an actor and model, appearing in such films as 'The Waterboy' and 'Any Given Sunday.' USC Assistant Sports Information Director Chris Huston caught up with Mazio this fall and the two sat down for a Q & A.
C:What have you been up to since we last saw you in 1991?
M:I spent three seasons with the Tampa Bay Bucs, then I injured my knee. I then spent one season with Jacksonville and injured the other knee. After the NFL, I went to the World League and again got hurt. I had four broken ribs. After that final injury in the World League, I started thinking of other ways to make a living (laughs).
C:What'd you do after that?
M:I came back home to Los Angeles, but hadn't gotten football out of my system yet. I tried to get picked back up in the NFL, but my league minimum salary was too high because I already had put in three years, so no team would take a chance on me. Then I came back here to USC and graduated in 1998. Around that time, I started getting interested in the entertainment thing. I did some football movies and football commercials and that's sort of where I've been. I've also done a lot of modeling. I'm not your typical actor--sports acting is pretty much my thing.
C:So have you taken any acting classes?
M:Yeah, I took some to give myself the foundation, but I wouldn't call myself a true actor.
C:Do you look at acting as something to just make a living at or is it a 'craft'?
M:I definitely feel it's a craft and I have respect for it, which is why I don't call myself a typical actor. I'm basically an athlete filling a need whenever a movie calls for it. I think I would have been a great actor for Any Given Sunday because it wouldn't have been a reach for me. But with that movie, I ended up being the double for Bill Bellamy's character [the movie's receiver] in most of the football scenes. I'm thinking production could have saved money if they had gone with me. I know Bill Bellamy is a name, but he wasn't really a good athlete!
C:Were you getting hit for real in the movie?
M:No, I was pretty much just catching touchdowns. It was the quarterbacks that were getting hit.
C:Being a natural running back, did you have to practice at playing receiver for the movie?
M:Yeah, after my career at USC, I found that I would be more diverse if I played receiver. They say the more you can do in the league, the better your chance to stick around. By the time I got to my second or third year--and at the advise of one of my coaches at Tampa--I started picking up receiver type things. So when I went into Any Given Sunday, all I had to do was just hone my skills a little. We even had our own training camp for the movie.
C:Do you feel that being at USC, in the heart of the Hollywood scene, helped you as far as getting work in the movie industry?
M:I would say that USC helped me a great deal. The regular actor has a tough time finding work as an actor. It's extremely difficult. I found that my sports abilities helped me get in the door. My first film was The Waterboy and I did that with Allen Graf, who is a former USC football player and that helped me a lot. Allen Graf does a lot of technical advising on sports for films. He did Any Given Sunday, so he designed all the plays and picked the talent to make it look real. That was his job. Because he knew me from USC, he picked and hired me. I was also in a Jack & The Box commercial. The guy who produced that had heard of me from USC and because of my affiliation with the Trojans, he hired me. So yes, it has helped me out a great deal, mainly in sports-type stuff.
C:Both acting and football involve scripts and designed movement. Does being a football player help you become a better actor in that sense?
M:I would say that it's a lot more unpredictable playing football. But acting and football are the same in the sense that they both have practice and rehearsals. It's just that I haven't gotten to that point in acting where I can equate the two. I haven't been a hardcore actor. I've basically just dabbled.
C:Are you always looking for that part that will put you over the top?
M:I'm content doing what I'm doing now. I don't want to go the true actor route. I'm not really the type where I'll really get into the craft of acting. I'm more likely going in the direction that Allan Graf is going--becoming a technical adviser on films. I actually have done some of that already. I just did an SBC commercial where I did the tech and stunt advising. I hired a lot of USC guys like Larry Parker, Rome Douglas, Matt McShane, and some UCLA guys as well. That's the kind of stuff I'm really passionate about. That's what I enjoy. Things I don't enjoy in acting are those corny commercials, where the true actor would be like 'wow.' It's just acting and I'm not hardcore about that. If I think it's corny, I can't get my heart into it.
C:So you're more into the technical aspect?
M:That's right. I want to stay on the production side and open my own company. I want to get to the level where my mentor, Allen Graf, is right now. What he does in a lot of his projects is the tech advising and stunt advising and then he just goes and puts himself in the movie. I'd like to go that route.
C:Would you like to do those advisory things for non-sports related stuff too?
M:Yeah. For right now, sports is my expertise, but I do want to do some things non-sports related down the line. Sports is my way in the door right now, to let people know that I can do sports and regular guy stuff. I'm trying to let them know I can do things other than sports. But it lays the foundation.
C:You had 203 yards in your first start as a sophomore. Back then, did you have any inkling then that you'd be doing what you're doing now?
M:It's always been in the back of my mind that I wanted to pursue a career in entertainment, but the forefront was always professional football. I just wanted to get into something when I stopped playing that I'm passionate about, not something where I'm motivated just by the money. In my career in entertainment I'm enjoying what I'm doing and am finally getting to the point where it's consistent and there's consistent work out there.
C:Was it tough to come to terms with not being a football player?
M:Yeah. The first couple years, I was having problems getting adjusted to real life, to working someplace and not getting a huge check. You have to humble yourself. I equate a lot of stuff I'm doing now to football. It's not like in football I just woke up to being at a high level. I had to work my way up through Pop Warner, high school and college.
C:Are you getting a pension from the NFL now?
M:Thos three plus seasons did the trick, so absolutely I'm getting a pension.
C:You kind of left USC of rough terms and now you are back here quite a bit. When did you, or did you have to make your peace to feel comfortable to come back here?
M:I still look on my experiences at USC as being a blessing. It was a little rocky situation when I left, but I didn't really have to make peace. I just tried not to take it personally.
C:What do you think about the current USC program?
M:When you're at those crucial ages of 18 to 22, you need someone who can get that talent, someone you can believe in and Pete Carroll is definitely one of those guys that you want to play for. He's a fair guy. He's always treated me fair and I'm on the outside looking in. When I've interacted with him, he's treated me with respect. He's a good guy. He's just a guy you want to play with and it's evident now with the team's success.
MAZIO ROYSTER'S CREDITS
Movies--The Waterboy, Any Given Sunday, Crazy/Beautiful
Commercials--Powerade with Michael Vick, Coors Light, Jack in the Box, current ESPN Promo that features Tony Robbins talking to Arizona Wildcats
Television--American Dreams, Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Tech Advisor--SBC Commercial, currently airing