Roy Lopez is looking forward to having fun in Year 2. The Houston Texans defensive lineman is already off to a great start, preparing for his role as the Grand Marshal in the 111th Mardi Gras! Galveston celebration on March 1.
"It's very humbling and exciting at the same time," Lopez said Thursday. "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."
That's how Lopez envisions his second season with the Houston Texans under Lovie Smith too.
Drafted in the sixth round (195th overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft, he stepped in as a starter on the defensive line in Week 2 when Vincent Taylor suffered a season-ending injury in the season-opener against Jacksonville. As a rookie, Lopez recorded 31 tackles (19 solo), 1.0 sacks, four tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and one fumble recovery in 16 games with 15 starts.
"I think probably the most exciting thing is just keep growing as a team, as a defensive line, as a defense and just keep, day by day, just stacking and getting better every single day, being able to grow with this defensive line," Lopez said. "You know, we'll see a couple of weeks, a couple of months here what our team molds into and all the guys they bring in and bring back and we're excited to see. I'm looking forward to keep growing with Ross (Blacklock) JG (Jonathan Greenard), everybody every single day."
Last year, with Smith as defensive coordinator, the Texans defense finished tenth in the NFL with 25 takeaways (17 interceptions, eight fumbles) after being last in 2020 with just nine. Houston's defense also intercepted 3.1 percent of opponent pass attempts in 2021, the fifth-highest rate in the NFL and four-best in the AFC.
Smith, named the Texans new head coach on Feb. 7, said he will continue to call plays on defense this year. When he heard the news of Smith being hired as head coach, Lopez was thrilled. The 63-year-old defensive mind is the "same guy every single day," according to Lopez.
"We were all excited about it and we all look forward to keep growing every day and so it was nice for Lovie to take the step," Lopez said. "Last year, it was a stepping stone. We can keep growing and keep growing, and we know exactly what he wants."
Lopez, an Arizona native, plans to stick around this offseason and train in Houston with his teammates.
"I'm at the facility every day and that's where Ross is at, that's where Jon Greenard's at so we'll be here," Lopez said. "When we say we're growing together, we truly mean it. So we're excited for each other, not only ourselves, but we're excited to keep going."
Check out the best moments from Lovie Smith's first day as head coach of the Houston Texans.