As one of the 14 San Francisco 49ers to have been or about to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Ronnie Lott remains very active in following the team he played for 10 of his 15 remarkable seasons in the NFL.
And once his team selected one of his pupils in USC safety
As Lott’s business endeavors have increased since his playing days wrapped up in 1995 with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Hall of Fame safety, who played in 10 Pro Bowls and won four Super Bowl rings has closely followed 49ers football.
Known as one of the iconic players in team history, Lott’s persona represents the tough-minded teams coached by the legendary Bill Walsh. Lott’s clutch defensive play has yet to be matched. His nine postseason interceptions are still the most in NFL history.
Lott doesn’t spend too much time harping back on specific moments from his decade-long career with the 49ers though. Instead, he relishes in knowing he gave his all during his time in a 49ers uniform.
“I don’t think you measure yourself by the uniform that you put on. It’s interesting to me how people constantly want to know what it’s like when you put the uniform on. I kind of didn’t define myself by the uniform. I defined myself by what I needed to achieve to be the best I could be for Bill and my teammates.”
Lott looks back on his career with no regrets.
“When you think of ‘What was that like?’ at the end of the day, what did you give of yourself? How much did you give? And were you able to give everything you could so you could say, ‘I exhausted the game.’
“And for me, I walked away feeling pretty good. That’s the one thing I looked back on, because you have to have peace that you did your best. I think that’s where I feel really comfortable with.”
Lott’s impressive career included 1,161 career tackles including five seasons surpassing the 100-tackle mark. He made All-Pro at three different positions (cornerback, free safety and strong safety) and even ranks fifth all-time with 63 career interceptions.
Lott’s menacing play often stood in the way of Mike Singletary’s Chicago teams.
Having competed against the team’s current head coach, Lott is very familiar with the type of team the 49ers have become under the legendary Hall of Fame linebacker.
“The same way Mike played is the way he coaches,” Lott said. “He understands that there’s only so much time to get certain things done. But if you’re only going to have so much time, allow yourself to be the best at it. Allow yourself to find yourself being around great people. Really, allow yourself to understand that there’s nothing better than being all that you can be.”
Under Singletary’s leadership the 49ers have put themselves in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. And as Lott pointed out, Singletary was ready to make the playoffs yesterday.
“Mike will probably tell you, I’m already there. Now the question is: Can he bring everyone else? But he’s already there.”
One of the players already playing playoff-caliber football in Lott’s mind is three-time Pro Bowl linebacker
“The first person I would gravitate towards is Patrick Willis. The reason is the human being of him. I can’t think of a better young man than Patrick,” Lott said. “You gravitate towards people who are great and obviously, he’s a human being, but he’s a great person and then all of a sudden, he’s a great football player. I think I would gravitate towards him, because I would want to be a better person. I would want to emulate him.”
As a fellow USC defensive back, Lott has taken Mays under his wing in recent years. He gave the rookie advice throughout his college career and most recently offered the youngster some essential advice prior to the draft.
“I told him, ‘Somebody is going to pay.’ I think when he defined, somebody is going to pay – it was more about him. It’s not about who else is going to pay. It’s about him reaching his greatness. I think as long as he focuses on reaching his greatness, they will pay. I believe when you see this guy and he does what I think he’s capable of doing, people will pay. And the reason they’ll pay is because they’ll want to see him and they’re going to pay because he’s going to hurt them.”
Lott isn’t shy about his feelings about Mays.
“The guy has all the skills and all the attributes of being a great player.”
He’s also pleased to see Singletary’s leadership influence Mays in a positive way.
“Mike’s said to Taylor, ‘I see more in you than you see in yourself. Now the question is, will you figure out a way to achieve it? I see where you can be. I see the things you can possibly do, but are you willing to make the sacrifices to get there?’
“I think Mike has gotten his ear, to get him to understand that you have a lot more in you and you have a chance of being a great player.”
Lott has remained active in the minds of the Bay Area community as he is always a main attraction at the various 49ers events he frequently attends. While he continues to set a standard of excellence in the community, young players like Mays look up to 49ers legend.
And as much as Lott wants to track the daily exploits of the 49ers along with his prized student, he’s happy to be busy with family and business responsibilities.
“I am a student of the game, but I’m a lot far away from the game. I probably know too much because I understand the game, but on the other side, I probably stay away from it because I have other responsibilities,” Lott said. “I find myself realizing that the most important things are what you have to do, your tasks and your goals.
“I think Bill Walsh would say it best. He would probably be the one guy who would tell you, “If you’re going to be great, you have to focus.”