Not every young man you meet is going to tell you to “take smart risks.” Peñasco resident Dominic “Red” Lopez will, and he credits his football training with teaching him the value of doing the “things that might help you out but that you’re scared of.”
One example might be the most recent max-out week for weight lifting. “All the Abreus […] affect you in their own way,” Lopez said. On this occasion, coach Ramon Abreu pumped Lopez up for his squat max-out attempt, showing him videos of the defensive linemen at Cruces and reminding him, “This is what you’ve worked for.”
Abreu encouraged him, “Don’t be afraid to be great.”
Lopez set a personal best – 585 pounds.
That’s 270 pounds more than his first ever max-out week with the Abreus where in the eighth grade he managed a very respectable 315 pounds.
Lopez still remembers his first encounter with Art Abreu Jr. He was eating at Pizza Hut when the coach came and introduced himself and talked to him about playing football. Lopez had been playing with YAFL for years and “trusted in the process” initiated by Abreu.
Four football seasons and 46 consecutive starts later, Lopez and his teammates went out for a celebratory breakfast at IHOP and, local celebrities that they are, their breakfast was ok in exchange for a photograph.
Still, all this fame isn’t going to his head. Perhaps it’s the leadership courses he took through his Taekwondo school, in which he earned a 1st degree black belt. They taught him “how to talk to people,” and “how to handle every situation with respect.”
Leadership training and natural ability weren’t fully enough to prepare Red for the Abreus.
“The ‘sir’ stuff was new to me,” Lopez recalls. Even though he didn’t really connect with it at the start, assistant coach Art Abreu Sr., “an old-fashioned type of guy,” led by example. He didn’t just tell them to have some pride in what they did. He did so himself. He held doors open for people. He stressed how important it was that the players help out in the community whenever they had the opportunity, “like if someone needed help carrying something heavy,” Lopez said. With time, Lopez realized he was learning not only how to be a champion football player, but also “how to be a young man.”
All football families make sacrifices for the sake of their children, but Lopez knows that the sacrifices of his family were extraordinary. Though he took the RTD bus to school during the school year, there was no bus early enough to get him to 5 a.m. practices in the summer. So his family brought him. Laughing at the recollection, Lopez said that he showered at night so that he didn’t have to get up until 3:50 a.m.
Those practices are in the history books, but Lopez looks forward to the future .
Twenty years from now, Lopez hopes to be a Game Warden in Northern New Mexico with a family and a house of his own. He looks forward to checking in on coach Abreu.
Reflecting on how to face challenges, Lopez said, “All your obstacles lead you down a good path.”
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