PSJA North's Micah Lopez (8) and McAllen Memorial's Andrew Salinas (7) scramble to scoop up a loose football during the first half of a non-district high school football game Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium in McAllen. Photo by Delcia Lopez/The Monitor | [email protected]

PHARR — PSJA North senior linebacker Micah Lopez has always dreamed of playing major college football.

Growing up in a football family, Lopez remembers spending weekends with his father Mark, a long-time high school coach in the Rio Grande Valley, watching the Texas Longhorns play longing for his opportunity to take the field in front of raucous stadiums on Saturday afternoons.

The Raiders’ defensive captain made his dreams a reality Monday when he committed to play college football at Washington State to become North’s first Division I college football commit.

“I wasn’t going to stop until I got there and to know that I have the opportunity to do that, it’s a dream come true,” Lopez said. “It feels good. There was a long time filled with a lot of uncertainty not knowing whether to commit or just wait. I just really believed in God’s plan and stayed patient and when you stay patient, good things happen like this.”

“It’s an awesome deal. Micah is as good of a kid as you’ll ever be around,” PSJA North head football coach and athletic coordinator Marcus Kaufmann said. “Nobody deserves this opportunity more than he does.”

Lopez, a three-year varsity letterman for the Raiders on the gridiron, becomes the fourth Rio Grande Valley senior football player to commit to a DI program this year joining Edinburg Vela offensive lineman Ronnie Garza, Mission Veterans wide receiver AJ Gonzaque and Sharyland Pioneer quarterback Eddie Lee Marburger, all three of whom are set to become UTSA Roadrunners in the fall.

The Raiders’ senior also becomes the first RGV player this year to commit to a team from a Power Five conference and the first player from the Valley to commit to a Pac-12 football program since McAllen Memorial’s Trevor Speights, the Rio Grande Valley’s all-time leader in career rushing yards, signed with Stanford in 2016.

“It’s huge and a blessing. I know I can’t ever quit because I can’t let people down here and it’s great because I know I’ll get to represent my high school, the city of Pharr and the Valley,” he said. “Trevor Speights was a big-time star down here in the Valley. For my name to be up there next to his, it’s a blessing. It’s the recognition I think I deserve.”

Lopez joins a long line of PSJA North football stars whose football careers have progressed to the collegiate level.

He follows in the footsteps of former Raiders offensive lineman Frankie Saucedo and defensive back Seven Sanchez, The Monitor’s 2019 All-Area Football Defensive Player of the Year, who moved on to play college ball at DIII Texas Lutheran and DII Texas A&M-Kingsville, respectively.

“(As a coaching staff) it feels good and like we’re getting the program headed in the right direction,” Kaufmann said. “We’ve had others like Aaron Alvarez go JUCO and then end up at a Division I program, but this is our first player to actually sign that way so it’s a pretty good deal. That’s kind of a feather in our cap here at North.”

“It started off with our co-defensive coordinator Coach (Will) Littleton,” Lopez said. “He implemented that Blackshirt Defense mentality and amongst ourselves as players, we competed every single day to be the best guy in practice, the most physical and the hardest hitter. That competition made each one of us better and that ultimately describes how we’ve all been able to play college football.”

Lopez earned spots on The Monitor’s All-Area Second Team and the Texas Sports Writers Association Class 6A Honorable Mention All-State Team for his work on the field as a senior.

The Raiders’ star linebacker recorded a team-high 67 tackles and matched a career-high seven tackles for less during a six-game condensed regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

PSJA North Guarionex Garcia (1) scoops up a fumble after a strip by teammate Micah Lopez (8) of PSJA Ethan Castillo (5) during the first half of a high school football game at PSJA Stadium on Friday Oct.4, 2019 in Pharr. Photo by Delcia Lopez/The Monitor

He finishes his high school career with 327 total tackles and 15 tackles for loss, ranking among the top defenders across the Rio Grande Valley during his three-year stint at PSJA North.

What helped Lopez realize his dreams of playing DI college football most, however, were his dedication in the classroom and his hard work promoting himself in the digital recruiting sphere.

“I would say most importantly, you need to make a highlight film,” Lopez said. “The faster you make a highlight film, the faster you’ll be able to DM it to a lot of coaches and start introducing yourself to them by sending emails and your transcripts. That’s really going to help out with your opportunity to play.”

“His grades are very good. A lot of kids don’t understand that a lot of it has to do with your grades to be able to be sellable at that level,” Kaufmann said.

“PSJA does a great job because it’s an early college as well, so the kids are already being taught college courses across the entire campus. Everybody can graduate from North with an associate’s degree anyways, so the school does a great job of letting those kids know that those opportunities are there for college and I think it carries over into athletics so that when you do go to college, you’re already a sophomore or junior when you get there. That allows you to get in there, go play and get a lot of your school paid for on top of that to go get yourself a master’s degree.”

Lopez is set to sign with Washington State and make his commitment official during a ceremony scheduled for Friday, May 21 in Pharr.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch