116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Junior linebacker led Coe in tackles in 2019, team captain this year
CEDAR RAPIDS – Manny Lopez is fueled by a competitive spirit.
He possesses an incessant need to win. The contest doesn’t matter. Whether he is playing football, video and board games or other activities, Lopez loves the challenge to be the best.
Coe’s junior linebacker even resorted to cards and puzzles as an outlet when the pandemic kept him off the field.
“I feel like I’m wired like that, in general,” Lopez said. “I’m a very competitive person. I always have been and I just love to compete. It’s always something that has been like a chip on my shoulder.”
Lopez is a captain and fiery defensive leader for the Kohawks during a shortened spring schedule for American Rivers Conference programs. Coe was scheduled to play Simpson Saturday in Indianola, but the game was canceled due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, according to the school’s athletics website.
“Manny is awesome,” Coe Coach Tyler Staker said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s a tone setter for our defense. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s really aggressive and a physical player for us.”
The 5-foot-11, 210-pounder is popular among his teammates. He received more votes than any Kohawk in the captain voting. Many appreciate the work ethic and passion of his play.
“I think that says a lot for the respect they have for him,” Staker said. “The way he works on and off the field, in the weight room and just providing that spark to our defense. He plays the right way. He plays with a lot of heart and passion.”
The run stopper led the team in tackles for the 2019 season, tallying 82 total tackles with 39 solo, five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Lopez likes to mix it up, welcoming contact from linemen or fullbacks trying to block. He has been that way his entire football career.
“I like blowing up plays and getting my teammates fired up,” Lopez said. “Whether it is a couple yard loss or down the field, it doesn’t really matter as long as we’re out there making plays together as a team. It sparks our team.”
This isn’t just a game day mentality. Lopez brings the same intensity and enthusiasm every day and each practice. His consistency earned him playing time as a freshman, amassing 28 tackles, two for loss, an interception and forced fumble. Lopez has been a regular contributor since he joined the program.
“He practices hard all the time,” Staker said. “He’s a high-energy guy and doesn’t take a play off. When you have a guy that practices like that, as coaches, you’re trying to find ways to get those guys on the field and reward them for the way they prepare. That has been the case for Manny in his time at Coe.”
Staker said Lopez doesn’t shy away from a battle, even during practices. He is in the middle of most scuffles, providing a hard-nosed identity to Coe’s defense. Lopez relies on that competitive edge that is fostered by Kohawks center Rush Vance.
“He tends to push me a lot harder sometimes,” Lopez said. “We like to get after it. It’s always heated when we go against each other, but in a good way. We just get the best of each other. He gets me one play. I get him another play. We just go back and forth.”
Lopez seemed like a good fit at Coe. He lived in West Liberty through eighth grade, moving to Arlington, Texas. He played football at Arlington High School for Eddie Peach, who is the son of legendary high school coach Scott Peach. The older Peach coached Coe alumni Fred and Patrick Jackson.
“I learned a lot from him,” Lopez said. “I learned a lot from his dad as well.”
The spring games provide a chance to satisfy his competitiveness, even if there is no conference title or playoffs at stake. Consider this a dry run for the 2021 season, gaining experience and identifying the right personnel.
“We get a lot of guys back for next fall,” Lopez said. “We’re seeing what works, who it works with and how it works, so that’s one of the biggest things we can take away. It’s a very quick turnaround for us, but I think we’ll be ready in the fall for sure.”