It was that wide, toothy smile that drew people to him.

The one that Charles Royston Jr. wore as he celebrated with his Minneapolis North teammates after they won the school’s first state football title in 2016. A photo in the next day’s Star Tribune showed Royston racing onto the field at U.S. Bank Stadium, his dreads bouncing off his shoulders.

That is how those who knew him say they will remember him: always on the go, with a trademark grin that flashed through good times and bad.

“It’s a huge Kool-Aid smile, and he could make anyone smile with that smile,” said his older sister, Dorothy.

After graduation, he left to play football at a junior college in North Dakota, before moving back to be with his ailing mother.

Then, shortly before 11 p.m. on Jan. 14, officers were dispatched to a report of shots fired in the area of N. 35th and Girard avenues. When they arrived, they found Royston, 21, in a nearby alley, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, police said. Another victim from the shooting showed up later at an area hospital.

That victim told police that he and a friend were parked nearby when they were approached by two suspects, who tried to rob and shot the victim. Police now believe the shooting may have resulted from a drug deal gone south.

An MPD spokesman said Monday that no arrests had been made yet in the case.

Dorothy Royston had been asleep when the call about the shooting came. Getting the news felt like ripping off a still-tender scab. Only the month before, the family had buried their mother after she died of a long-term illness.

And now, her brother was gone, too.

She has tried to keep her mind occupied by sorting through her brother’s belongings. “My home at this point and time is literally a shrine,” she said during a recent interview, her voice occasionally cracking. “I haven’t even begun to go through my mom’s things yet.”

Although Royston reveled in the image of the tough-guy football player growing up, his sister said, he was really “a mama’s boy.”

“He was a big baby,” she said, recalling how the two of them used to recreate wrestling moves they had seen on “WWE Smackdown” in their home. Whenever Royston lost, she said, he would run crying into his mother’s arms.

“He loved to dance, he loved to smile. He had a smile,” she said. “The type of person that he was into sports, so much that he was telling his friends to not do things in the streets, to go be a part of football.”

Depending on how you knew him, he answered to “Chuckie” — a nickname reserved for family and close friends — and “Bogg,” which he started going after he decided to try his hand at writing music.

But football was his first love.

Charles Adams, his coach at North, said that Royston was a starting cornerback on the 2016 state championship team. Royston was a joy to be around, he said, but would also drive his coaches crazy at times. They used threaten to bench him in order to get him to play harder, and the motivational tactic stuck.

“We would say, ‘Don’t make us Charles Royston you,’ to our kids,” said Adams, a former Minneapolis police officer who is the Minnesota Twins’ director of team security.

He played one year of football at North Dakota School of Science in Wahpeton, N.D., a popular landing place for city kids who didn’t get many Division I offers out of high school, but later transferred to Southwest Minnesota State University. But, as his mother’s condition worsened, he decided to leave school to help take care of her.

His father, Charles Sr., said that his son didn’t think twice about putting his football dreams on hold. He said that his son sometimes acted out, as most teenagers did, but that he was “a very loving person.” He said that he and his wife had taught Charles Jr. to work hard, and to “yes sir” and “no ma’am” people.

But, he still second-guessed his son’s decision to move back home, worrying that some of the people he hung around would drag him down.

“Today, I cry because that was the worst mistake,” said Charles Sr., who coached his son’s youth football teams at Farview Park. “I should’ve told him not to do that, but how could I tell him not to come when his mom was slowly dying.”

Every day also brings bouts of guilt that he couldn’t do more to protect his son, he said.

“I got him through the North Side, I got him through North High, and now he’s had three years of college, now he can find his way, now I can rest — but now my son is dead.” he said. “Being a father from the streets, that was the last thing that I wanted to do was to have my son caught up in that life.”

Royston is survived by his father, sister and two older brothers.

Libor Jany • 612-673-4064 Twitter: @StribJany

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