Luis Lopez: A Rough Start with a Dream Finale

By: Michael A. Chase Jr.

2/18/18

                Each and every athlete comes from a different background or origin. They come from all walks of life, and in all shapes and sizes. For one athlete in particular that I had the chance to recently interview, his story is one made for a novel, movie, or a screenplay. The athlete I am referring to is Luis Lopez and his story as I discovered from my conversation with him, is one that needed to be told.

          Luis Lopez is 23 years old, and was originally born in Mexico before immigrating to the U.S. at a very young age with his Mother. He was then raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Camden, New Jersey and Houston, Texas. He has lived in several states because of the financial situation of his household, with him being raised in a single parent home. This also led to him becoming a registered DACA Dreamer to help him avoid deportation and get a job to help support his household while he went to school. Thus, Luis Lopez before he even got around to football, already had a lot put on his plate at a very young age.

          The good thing is that football can provide tremendous opportunities to those who play it. At the age of just 6 years old, Lopez began playing football in the streets where he said,” I always played quarterback growing up because of my accuracy in throwing the football as a kid.” Lopez then would go on to take his football talents to the high school football stage where he ended up attending 3 different high schools. These were Lamar High School, Channelview High School and Stratford High School. He played for Lamar and Channelview but lost his eligibility to play football his senior year of high school because he had to change schools which made him ineligible under UIL rules.  This again was as he stated, “Because I was raised by a hard-working single mom and we had to move a lot due to financial considerations.” Though football still was the ultimate glue to his high school experience despite not being able to lay roots at one high school for an extended period. I learned that Lopez played Free Safety and had an incredible moment he said he would never forget during his time on the field. This moment was when he picked off current Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts during a scrimmage at Channelview high school. Certainly a play that will get you some name recognition.

           Despite his constant moving and lack of stability, he continued to excel and worked hard on and off the field. Unfortunately for Luis Lopez, his football playing career came to another significant roadblock. This is because Lopez was unable to attend college for several different reasons. The first was as he stated,” our financial challenges did not allow me to afford college as I had to work full-time to support my mother.” He continued,” as an immigrant from Mexico, my status as a DACA Dreamer also made it so that I was not eligible for financial aid which put college out of my reach.” He talked about how it had always been a dream of his to go to college and obtain a degree in industrial engineering, while playing football to get closer to his ultimate dream of playing in the NFL. Yet because of his circumstances, these dreams, especially the NFL, had to be put on hold. Though now with the Beyond Sports Network National Scouting Combine on his horizon, the doorway to his NFL Dream has been reopened. Lopez has been hard at work in eager anticipation of this tremendous opportunity.

Lopez stated,” I have been training 6 hours a day in anticipation of attending the BSN National Scouting Combine as I am confident that this is the best way to showcase my skills, talents and abilities to perform at my position.” He also spoke on the impact of his past life challenges which greatly influenced his mindset and drive to perform at the Combine. Stating,” due to my upbringing, I have a maturity not typical of the average 23 year-old.  I bring my natural athleticism, fierce focus, my youth, enthusiasm, a positive attitude, no injuries, and a great hunger to take advantage of this life changing opportunity that I missed by not having a college career in football.” Thus Lopez has a clear understanding and respect for the opportunity he has been given and certainly is determined not to waste it. I went on to then ask what impact overall he thought this Combine would have on his football career. He said,” I can gain the dream that I never had the chance to realize growing up in the tough streets where I was raised.” He continued saying,” I can realize my full potential as a man and I can give my family the life that we have always prayed for.  I have been training hard and I am ready to show the scouts that I am the undiscovered talent that gets showcased by this amazing BSN event.” Lopez went on applauding the job of BSN founder Jimmy Kibble for doing a great thing getting undiscovered athletes this opportunity. While also talking about how this is a tremendous opportunity because of the lack of NFL Regional Combines this year, and that he is truly grateful for the opportunity.

          As far as his skills and abilities, he indicated that he is very aware of his strengths and greatest areas which need improvement on the field. Certainly, his versatility in playing Quarterback, Wide Receiver, and Free Safety provides great options on the field. At his main position of Free Safety, he described both his physical and mental advantages. Lopez stated,” my best skill as a Free Safety is my ability to intercept the football.  I also have a 6’3” wingspan and I am going to give the Running Backs serious problems.” Also saying,” I am extremely in tune with the play, ball location, and intention of the Quarterback as well.” We also spoke on what he feels he must improve in his game. Lopez described,” I need to improve my speed, increase my bench press weight, and need more experience on the field.” Continuing, “I think with the right coaching staff, I can improve in every one of these areas.  I am currently training with ATH and Antwan Floyd, who is possibly the best NFL Combine trainer in Houston and we have experienced major progress in my abilities.” He also told me how with him coming in with no injuries it provides him with a major advantage. Thus Lopez is aware of the strengths and advantages in his game, while also knowing he must continue to work hard to grow into an even better player.

          I then asked him since he is trying to go pro, what would he say to a scout or GM to convince them that he deserved a shot if they were sitting here with us? He stated,” There is a place in the NFL for me and I am going to work relentlessly to get in position to realize that dream.  I am a DACA Dreamer and I am here to show what diversity brings to this amazing country and to football.  I am the most determined person you will ever meet and my story is a story of hope and realizing your dreams when everyone tells you that it’s impossible.” He is certainly an, “Against All Odds” story. Also saying,” My life’s circumstances were beyond my control but God has a way of making things happen when there doesn’t seem to be a way.”

          Lopez concluded our conversation with what I learned to be a biggest turning point in his life that has gotten him to this moment. This was when Luis was 14 years old, he found and joined Lakewood Church in Houston.  He spoke on how he found the church not just by himself but he felt that God led him there. Ultimately, he said finding this church really helped him find his way off the streets and it helped start the positive trajectory in his life. There he discovered the two big keys that have aided the process of him growing into a man, God and his wife.

          In the end, Luis Lopez as an athlete has certainly great physical and mental abilities which have put him in a great position to realize his NFL Dream. Though it may be a difficult life and challenging journey that he endured to get here that will give him the extra push and motivation needed to become a great player and a great man. His story certainly is unique and his Hispanic background is not one plentiful in the NFL. His story proves that those who come from less can still achieve anything they truly desire with incredible amounts of hard work and fierce determination which make impossible dreams come true and that is what Luis Lopez is on the verge of doing.