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Originally published December 16, 2011 at 8:02 PM | Page modified December 17, 2011 at 4:05 PM

Huskies' Brendan Lopez ready to move from football to dental school

Washington senior long snapper Brendan Lopez has been accepted to dental schools at UW and Penn and will likely attend one or the other next fall after completing his degree in neurobiology.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Dec. 29

Alamo Bowl: Washington vs. Baylor, 6 p.m., ESPN

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The Brendan Lopez story might some day be titled "From Long Snapping to Deep Drilling."

Lopez, a senior at Washington, has been the Huskies' snapper the past two seasons for all punts and kicks.

But after Washington plays in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 against Baylor, he will hang up the cleats.

And soon after, the Bellevue High grad will put on the dental robe. The only question is where.

Lopez was recently admitted to dental schools at Washington and the University of Pennsylvania, and will likely attend one or the other next fall after completing his degree in neurobiology at UW. He said he's leaning toward UW because that would keep him at home.

He has a 3.65 grade-point average and was recently named to the Pac-12 All-Academic first team, one of two Washington players to earn that honor (the other was safety Greg Walker).

The UW football office said that of roughly 1,100 people who apply to the dental school each year, 63 are accepted.

"What a big deal for him to get into dental school," said UW special-teams coach Johnny Nansen. "He's a smart kid, a great kid, so I'm proud of him."

The acceptance caps a UW career that has gone about as well as Lopez could have planned, on and off the field, when he made the decision to leave Michigan after a year and return home.

He attended Michigan for the football season of 2007, following former Bellevue teammate Stephen Schilling to Ann Arbor.

But he decided to come back to Seattle, walking on at UW in 2008 under former coach Tyrone Willingham.

Washington at the time had Danny Morovick entrenched as the long snapper, so Lopez toiled as a backup for two seasons, with no guarantee of either a starting spot or a scholarship.

Both, though, arrived in the fall of 2010 when Lopez won the job to take over for Morovick.

The 6-foot, 231-pounder might have wondered what he'd gotten himself into when the first snap of his UW career, at Brigham Young, sailed over the head of punter Will Mahan for a safety.

Since then, though, he's basically been perfect on what have officially been 125 punt snaps, 35 field-goal snaps and 81 PATs.

"He's just been steady," Nansen said.

Lopez' mother, Cheryl, is a dental hygienist, which sparked the initial interest in dentistry.

"I knew I wanted to be in health care but I knew I didn't want to be a doctor because I wanted to have a good balance between work and personal life," he said.

Along with his classes at UW — among his courses this quarter is one in neuroanatomy, the study of the anatomy from the neck up — he has also volunteered at dental clinics, done research at the UW dental lab and shadowed dentists.

"I frankly didn't know what I wanted to do when I transferred back here," he said. "I got set on dental school halfway through my sophomore year and then really hit it hard the last two and a half years."

He's balanced academics and football well enough that he won the school's 101 Club Scholarship award for top football scholar-athlete earlier this month.

He said, though, the juggling act has become more difficult the past two seasons than in his years as a walk-on, when he would practice but wouldn't play.

"It was a lot easier when I wasn't playing and wasn't traveling every weekend," he said. "The last two years have been pretty tough. I knew I had those goals that I wanted to achieve and just worked every day, took it step by step."

Having a set post-football plan allows Lopez to approach the end of his football career without a lot of dread, even if it's just about all he's known for years.

He was a three-year starter at Bellevue and named the KingCo 3A defensive player of the year as a senior when the Wolverines won the state title.

"I'm ready to move on," he said. "I'm very content with what I've done and I think it's time to be done. I'm going to miss it, but it's going to be nice just to take a break."

Notes

• Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt is the first cousin of Peter Holt, who owns the San Antonio Spurs. Washington and Baylor players will attend the Spurs' season opener against Memphis on Dec. 26.

• Washington leaves for San Antonio on Dec. 23.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @bcondotta.

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