Robby Lopez may have played his final game in the Emirates American Football League, but he’ll head back to Texas carrying extra weight after earning the league’s Player of the Year award.
The bruising Abu Dhabi Wildcats running back topped all standout players in the Men’s division for the league’s highest individual honour, beating reigning MVP and team-mate Vivaldi Tulysse, along with the Dubai Barracudas’ Luke Norrey and Zavier Cobb, as well as Jay Hall of the Al Ain Desert Foxes.
Players, coaches, referees and league officials came together for the fifth annual EAFL Awards at the Els Club on Friday to recognise excellence on and off the field.
There was little Lopez didn’t accomplish in what will be his first and only season in the Emirates as he helped the Wildcats reach the Desert Bowl, where they fell just short to up-and-coming Al Ain.
He’s also had a prominent role for the EAFL Falcons through their first two international clashes of the year, playing both sides of the ball in victories over the Jeddah American Football Team and Almaty Titans.
Lopez was appreciative of receiving the award, saying: “It means a lot, but in the end, I couldn’t have done it myself. I have to thank the team and the coaches for giving me the opportunity to play and show them what I can do on the field. Those big guys up front, they let me do what I do and we got it done.”
Lopez leaves for the US with fond memories and new friends.
“I hope everything goes well for the Wildcats. I wish nothing but the best for them,” he said. “As far as the league goes, I hope they continue growing, blow up and make it big.”
In the youth league, meanwhile, Kian Sohrabi of the Varsity Dubai Barracudas and Anant Singh of the Junior Varsity Dubai Stallions were named Player of the Year in their respective divisions.
Both players capped their season in style after winning the Desert Bowl and improved on the awards they earned last year, when Sohrabi earned Co-Offensive Player of the Year and Singh received his team’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Explaining what contributed to his improvement this season, Singh said: “For starters, I switched to a new position – quarterback. Last year I was switching around, playing one game at quarterback, one game at running back and mostly on the offensive line.”
For Sohrabi, he focused on his technique to become an elusive and explosive running back.
“I cut down some weight, I worked on my footwork, I looked at my tape after every single game to see what I could improve on and just continue to get better,” he said.
Player of the Year
Men: Robby Lopez, Abu Dhabi Wildcats
Varsity: Kian Sohrabi, Dubai Barracudas
Junior Varsity: Anant Singh, Dubai Stallions
Offensive Player of the Year
Men: Jay Hall, Al Ain Desert Foxes
Varsity: Damian Staga, Dubai Stallions
Junior Varsity: Thomas Toral, Abu Dhabi Capitals; Francesco Antonietti, Dubai Stallions
Defensive Player of the Year
Men: Alex Rodriguez, Dubai Barracudas
Varsity: Tomas Mourino, Dubai Barracudas
Junior Varsity: Sam Dabbous, Abu Dhabi Capitals; Sami Bushnaq, Dubai Stallions
Special Teams Player of the Year
Men: Daniel Viranyi, Dubai Barracudas