A former standout wrestler, Texans rookie defensive tackle Roy Lopez embraces the grittier aspects of football as he thrives in the trenches by proving a stout presence inside.
The 6-foot-2, 318-pound sixth-round draft pick from Arizona has emerged as a building block for an overhauled roster. He has started 9 of 10 games for the 2-8 Texans and has recorded 17 tackles, one sack and two tackles for losses.
A former Arizona Defensive Lineman of the Year who had a 113-3 wrestling record as a champion, Lopez keeps blockers away from the Texans’ linebackers so they can run to the football.
“He’s a nose tackle,” Texans coach David Culley said. “He’s one of those guys that will command and allow those linebackers to do what they do. He is so tough. That guy is so tough. He plays 100 miles an hour, all the time. He’s learning. He’s also learning, too, that sometimes it gets a little rough and tough in there with those guys because usually you have two guys blocking you.
"Normally, when it’s one you’re OK but all of a sudden two guys. You have a guy blocking from the left and you think you are OK and then you have a guy from the right and another guy hit you. He’s learning now about how to be an NFL nose guard and doing a good job at it.”
Signed to a four-year contract worth $3.881 million, including a $182,844 signing bonus, Lopez has a lot of strength working in his favor. He bench pressed 225 pounds 36 times at his campus Pro Day workout and had a 31-inch vertical leap.
Lopez’s wrestling background and powerful build is creating leverage in his daily grappling sessions with offensive linemen. A graduate transfer from New Mexico State, Lopez recorded 18 tackles with four for losses in just five games last season for Arizona last season. He had 137 tackles, 20 for losses, during his New Mexico State football career.
“I feel like I grow every week,” Lopez said. “It’s just a comfortability thing. Just keeping improving on things that you learn every single game, sometimes you get a new look, but sometimes you get the same look.
“In the NFL, it’s an unforgiving league. If one team sees something, they’re going to try to do the same thing. It’s been great. I’ve been embraced by the whole defense and everybody shows love. We just look to improve every week.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He's on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128