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Shrine Football All-Star : Butterflies, Not Excess Pounds, Weighing on Ken Lopez' Mind

July 30, 1987|MITCH POLIN | Times Staff Writer

It is not unusual for a player to have a few butterflies about competing in the Shrine All-Star Football Game.

With 60 of the top graduated high school seniors in the state playing, it is safe to say it will be the toughest competition that a player faces in his young football career.

And Los Altos High linebacker Ken Lopez has even more reason for apprehension about playing in Saturday's 36th annual game at 7 p.m. at the Rose Bowl.

It could be the 18-year-old's last game.

Lopez is one of only a handful of players in the game who have not been offered a college scholarship for next season, and he says he may not play after Saturday.

Not that his play during high school wasn't worthy of a scholarship.

A three-year starter for Los Altos, Lopez had a senior season that most players could only dream about. As the top defensive player for the Conquerors, Lopez led his team in quarterback sacks with 26 and also had 130 tackles (56 unassisted), 3 blocked punts and 1 interception to carry Los Altos to the CIF Eastern Conference championship.

That impressed all-star voters enough to select him as Sierra League most valuable player and Eastern Conference player of the year. He also was named to The Times All-San Gabriel Valley first team.

About the only people it did not impress were college scouts. The problem is that Lopez is 6-2 and 180 pounds, not bad for high school but a little small for a college linebacker.

Lopez said he received numerous letters of inquiry from NCAA Division I colleges early in his senior season, including several from the Pacific-10 and Western Athletic conferences. But their interest came to a screeching halt as soon as he returned their questionnaires.

"As soon as they found out my weight, they weren't interested," he said.

Lopez was known as a fierce hitter with excellent range and field presence. But none of that seemed to matter to recruiters.

Lopez said he doesn't think it was his speed or the level of competition that made scouts skeptical. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds, perhaps a step slow for a major college, but he competed for a Los Altos program that has produced its share of major-college stars over the years.

"I think the weight was the big factor," Lopez said. "A scout told me, 'You can't go hunting with a BB gun.' They all told me that I couldn't play linebacker in college because of my weight.

"I'm pretty active and I don't eat a lot. So I haven't been able to put on a lot of weight. But I think I can fill out. I was only about 150 or 160 as a junior. I have the height and speed and I think I can play in college."

With all the negative talk about his weight, Lopez was a little surprised when he was selected for the Shrine game--one of the top all-star games in the nation.

"I was hoping to get picked," he said. "I saw the game the last two years. But I was surprised when they selected me. I was surprised that some of the other local players weren't picked too."

Lopez hopes that the Shrine game will give him the opportunity to prove himself to college recruiters, but he's worried.

"I'm a little apprehensive, to tell you the truth," he said. "We had our first team meeting and I saw some of those guys, and they're just so big. I hope I can compete."

Lopez will use the game to decide whether or not to continue his football career.

"If I do well I will keep playing," he said. "If not, I'll just go to school and be a student.

"I want to go out there and do well. Even if it is my last game, I want to have a good one. I'm definitely going to try to end it with a few good hits. I want to leave them something to remember me."

Lopez, who probably will attend Mt. San Antonio or Fullerton college, plans to become a chiropractor. But, with a good showing Saturday, he wouldn't mind putting his career plans on hold for awhile and playing a little more football.

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