Texans veteran defensive tackle Roy Lopez Jr. fondly remembers when he was back in high school, a growing standout eager to learn more about the game of football.
Now, the Arizona native, a former high school football and University of Arizona standout, is giving back to the game and passing on his knowledge to the next generation of budding football players.
Lopez and his family hosted a youth football camp for roughly 500 participants ages 5 through 18, Saturday, conducting drills and giving instructions at Desert Ridge High School. Lopez’s father, Roy Lopez Sr., is the head coach at Desert Ridge. The second annual BTB Roy Lopez Football Camp was overseen by the entire family, including Lopez’s mother, Veronica Gomez, along with his uncles, sisters and former coaches and teammates.
‘It was great, it was awesome,” Lopez said in a telephone interview with KPRC 2. “The message we sent today is to be the best. That’s our motto: be the best athlete you can be, give it all you got, even when nobody believes in you. Just keep going and appreciate every day and appreciate your loved ones and those around you.
“At the end of the day, you’re still the same people. No matter how far you go with your playing career, it’s the same people that still believe in you. Everybody that’s been a part of my journey volunteered. We came together and smiled and laughed and appreciated the day. I’m very grateful to get to this point.”
A former sixth-round draft pick, Lopez is entering his third NFL season.
He started 14 of 17 games last season, recording 36 tackles, one sack, six tackles for losses and three quarterback hits. As a rookie, Lopez, had 31 tackles in 15 starts with one sack and five tackles for losses.
Lopez has already beaten the odds by starting 29 career games with 67 tackles, 11 for losses and two sacks and one fumble recovery.
“You think about those things, especially when you see the rookie class last year,” Lopez said. “You think about, ‘I’m a vet, or I’m getting old.’ It’s just a fun part of the game. It doesn’t matter what year, it’s a dogfight. It’s a great way to make a living. I love this life.”
The Texans’ interior defensive line returns Lopez, Maliek Collins, Kurt Hinish, Thomas Booker and Taylor Stallworth. Texans general manager Nick Caserio signed veteran defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins and Hassan Ridgeway this offseason. The Texans’ defensive line rotation shapes up as a competitive situation.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Lopez, who played 558 snaps, 48 percent of the defensive playing time last season. “Lot of great guys, a lot of vets around looking to learn a lot and bounce ideas off one another. Just keep competing and try to build the best defensive line for the team as possible.”
Of course, the biggest change surrounding the Texans this year is the hire of new coach DeMeco Ryans.
Lopez is looking forward to his leadership.
“Yes, I was able to meet him, we got to sit down and talk,” Lopez said. “It was awesome. I was able to hear his voice and hear where he’s coming from. When you hear his voice, you can definitely understand he was a former player. He carries himself that way.
“He’s very happy to be on the job. Congratulations to him. It’s amazing for him to coach the team he played for. I’m excited for him. I’m excited to play for him. Who wouldn’t be? His resume speaks for itself. I’m looking forward to getting to work.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.