SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — Local high school football players are in prep mode gearing up for two-a-days at the end of the month. A lot of the players are getting extra help from private trainers. One of those trainers giving back is former Salem Spartan football player Daniel Lopez, whose road to being a trainer stemmed from a personal tragedy.
“I played football and basketball. I excelled in both sports and I always loved football more. There came a time in my life and my mother said if I want to play college and I picked football,” said Lopez.
In 2005, midway through Lopez’s freshman year at Carson Newman University, doctors discovered he had a rare neurological disorder. Klein-Levin Syndrome is characterized by the need to sleep up to 20 hours a day.
“It is like nothing you have ever seen before and I have recovered from it and in five or six months it would come back and that cycle would keep recurring. It eventually got to a point where I would lose 30 or 40 pounds,” Lopez said.
Lopez’s illness led to the end of his college football career.
“It is the hardest thing that happened. I probably put too many eggs in the football basket. There is a fine line with how much you care, I think I cared a little to much. I didn’t see another path for me except for football and playing professionally one day,” said Lopez.
Though he could no longer play, he has channeled his passion toward training football players, showing them important techniques to improve their games.
“I would work with a few different players. I do not have 20 guys up here. I have small groups with four or five players. My love of it really started with Max Philpott. Max has earned a scholarship with Virginia Tech,” said Lopez.
You know there is a old saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That is what he is doing. In fact, he is preparing the players for the next level of college. The youngins love what they are teaching him.
“It has opened up an entire new avenue for me to work defense,” said Salem Spartans football player Cameron Martindale.
“I mean we talk every day, we joke around, we talk about football and the classroom. I get a lot of advice from him,” said Salem Spartans football player Stacy Williams.
“The big thing is they mentally, is to realize to do a lot of things to get better. When people are willing to work hard and put the time in, at the same time focus on their school and what they are doing in the classroom, the potential is unlimited,” said Lopez.
Daniel doesn’t charge for his services. He says the trainees and their parents try give him money. But he refuses to take the cash. Daniel feels seeing their success on and off the field is payment enough.
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