Texans starting defensive tackle Roy Lopez definitely knows how to celebrate, punctuating sacks with his impromptu and rhythmic salsa dancing.
Those moves and rich spirit should come in handy in Lopez's role Sunday as Grand Marshal of the annual Mardi Gras! Galveston at the city of Galveston's fifth annual Fiesta Gras, a celebration of Hispanic heritage. This marks the 111th annual Mardi Gras celebration in Galveston.
One of 24 Latino football players in the league, Lopez is excited to lead the parade through the Galveston Historic District.
"This is going to be a blast," Lopez said during a Zoom video call. "It's going to be good to see everyone have a good time. That's what I look forward to. To enjoy myself and the community, there's nothing more I can ask. It's very humbling and exciting at the same time. It's fun.
"These things are fun to do. So, I just like to enjoy the moment and being able to do it with my family right beside me and communities smiling and taking pictures, so I can't express how thankful I am to do it. It's awesome and humbling. It's going to be pretty cool. It's going to be a great time."
A sixth-round draft pick from Arizona, Lopez started 15 games as a rookie and recorded 31 tackles, five for losses, one sack, one fumble recovery and two quarterback hits. He emerged as a popular fan favorite and a solid foundational piece for a rebuilding franchise.
Fiesta Gras will feature a concert, a parade and a headliner performance by Siggno, a Latin Grammy Award winning Tejano group.
Founded in 1867, this is the third-largest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States and the largest in Texas.
Yaga's Entertainment donates a portion of the proceeds to the following charitable causes in addition to local firefighters: The Sunshine Kids, Shriners Hospital for Children, Galveston Education Foundation, Texas A&M Maritime Academy and local firefighters.
Lopez is somewhat familiar with Mardi Gras traditions. Before he transferred to Arizona, Lopez had a roommate who was from New Orleans and Lopez got to try a king cake, which comes from the Biblical story of three kings who bring gifts to baby Jesus. It's a blend of coffee cake and cinnamon roll and traditionally iced in yellow, green and purple: Mardi Gras colors.
"The crazy part is I didn't know much about Mardi Gras and my roommate got mailed a king cake," said Lopez, who didn't know initially about the tradition of a plastic baby being inside the cake. "The king cake was good. The amount of pride and the good time they had, I learned how they do it in New Orleans. I haven't learned too much about how they do it in Galveston."
To celebrate Hispanic heritage is particularly significant for Lopez and his family.
"This is big because Latino football players are not common because its' true," Lopez said. "To be able to do things like this, and to be a face for the Latino outlets, it's pretty cool. To show our pride, it's awesome. I look forward to this event and future events. It's going to be nice to see the love and excitement around us.
"It's a very fun and exciting time for me. It's humbling. I want to enjoy the moment and be able to do it with my family beside me, I cannot express how thankful I am to do this."
Aaron Wilson is an NFL reporter and analyst for Pro Football Network and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.