He earned a bachelor's degree from Virginia Tech in 3 1/2 years, and he darted up the depth chart after the Denver Broncos selected him in the second round of the NFL Draft.
In minicamp, he started in the slot position but quickly learned to play flanker and split end, too. A week into training camp he earned a starting job opposite playmaker Brandon Marshall.
Starting is one thing for a rookie. Starring is quite another.
Royal caught nine passes for 146 yards and a TD in his dramatic debut, a 41-14 rout of bitter AFC West rival Oakland.
It was the best introduction by a Broncos rookie receiver since Rick Upchurch's 153-yard performance against Kansas City in 1975.
With Marshall, who caught 102 passes for 1,325 yards last season, serving his one-game suspension for violating the NFL's code of conduct, Royal was featured in the offense from the start.
"I'm surprised they did this much without Marshall, being their guy," Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "I'd be scared to see what they can do with him now."
The San Diego Chargers will be the first to find out when they visit Invesco Field on Sunday, and quarterback Jay Cutler, for one, is eager to see what his new dynamic duo can accomplish together.
"This just opens up a lot of possibilities for us," Cutler said.
Royal did most of his damage against former Atlanta Falcons corner back DeAngelo Hall, who grew so flustered by the rookie that he committed two 15-yard personal fouls against Royal on a second-quarter drive.
Royal's 146 yards marked the sixth-most by a player in his NFL debut since 1960, and he became the first rookie receiver to top 100 yards in his first game since Anquan Boldin's NFL record 217-yard performance in 2003.