Ronnie Lott was part of the San Francisco 49ers team that won four Super Bowls. Lott was drafted by the 49ers in 1981 and played on four different teams, most notably for San Francisco. The 10 time Pro Bowler was known for his tough and fierce play in the 49ers defensive backfield. Lott was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. The 49ers retired his number, which was 42 and Lott will forever be a fan favorite in San Francisco.
Ronnie Lott was nice enough to chat with me about his great NFL career, this year’s Super Bowl match-up between the 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, and his great foundation All Stars Helping Kids.
Art Eddy: The 49ers are playing the Ravens in the Super Bowl. What will 49ers have to do to get the win?
Ronnie Lott: Well they got to continue to do what they have been doing and that is play great defense. They got to get turnovers. They got to rely on their defense. On the offensive side they cannot turn the ball over. They have to protect the ball. They have to run the football. This is going to be a tough team to beat because they have an excellent defense. They have to do something on the offensive side to allow them to continue to move the clock, but more importantly protect the football.
AE: What is your take on Colin Kaepernick and what do you think about the read option offense?
RL: It gives them the flexibility to do what he does best and that is to be deceptive, to make the defense think, and he has been accustomed to be doing that for quite a long time. So he is comfortable with doing that. He has been able to make great decisions with the ball. I think all those things bodes well for him, but when you think of Colin the best thing that I can tell you is that he has been patient. He hasn’t been affected by playing from behind. He hasn’t been affected by a lot of things. He just continues to play football. He continues to do the things that he does well and he plays to his strengths.
AE: You were known for your hard hits and how great you played the game in the safety and cornerback position. Could you play in the NFL today with the way the game is played to protect wide receivers?
RL: Yea, for sure. When you see the kid (Bernard) Pollard hit the running back (Stevan) Ridley from the Patriots and see hits like that of course those are reflective of the types of hits I used to make. So you can do it. It is understanding the rules. For some reason we believe that when you think of the game of football today that if you do understand the rules you don’t put yourself in a position where you hurt your team. You try to find a way to play within the guidelines of the rules.
You continue to play as hard as you can if you can do all those things. It requires a lot of discipline. It requires a lot of work. So guys today when they play they have to change their technique. They got to realize that there is more discipline around hitting people. When you do hit them you have to hit them in certain spots. All those things come in to play, but yes I believe I could play today. I think I could learn how to play within the guidelines and the rules of the game. I am a professional and by the way being a professional means that you can play any kind of way.
AE: You are a four time Super Bowl Champion with the 49ers. How different was playing in the first Super Bowl to the other ones? As a player do you buy into the playoff experience notion or do you feel that is over-hyped by the media?
RL: I got to believe it doesn’t work because we didn’t have any playoff experience when we first went into the playoffs. We won in 1981. I think that it goes out the window and so I got to believe both teams haven’t been back to the Super Bowl. So both these teams right now it will be their first, but they will have to recall on the ability to play great.
When you think of the 49ers and the teams that I played on what separated them is each time the bar was raised higher. The reason that it was raised higher was that guys felt like we were not competing against the other team we were competing against ourselves. You found yourself realizing that we could get better. So a lot of great things happened between the first one where we were just trying to figure it all out to at the end when you score 55 points you realize you are trying to compete against yourself.
AE: You were elected to the Football Hall of Fame in 2000. What was going through your mind during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony?
RL: I think the mindset has always been that you would have to work hard to be the best. You work hard to do all you can do. Then to be in that environment all that stuff pays off. All the people that you used to watch and all the things you used to emulate, all of those things are kind of talked about. All of the responsibilities of showing up on time. All of the responsibilities of listening to guys like George Seifert and Bill Walsh and all those great coaches. Listening to John Robinson at (U)SC. All those things show up in your life. I think the reason that it shows up that week is that there are so many things that allow you to get there. There is not one, but they are collective of all those things provide you a chance to be among the best.
I’m very fortunate. When you think about playing the game of football especially at the NFL level it is a privilege. You got to take advantage of the privilege and try to make the most of it. I was very fortunate to have some great coaches, great people around me that kept encouraging me that I had a shot at being the best.
AE: Do you have one moment in your great NFL career that sticks out to you?
RL: Well the funny thing about the first Super Bowl was that it was probably the best one. The reason why is that there are so many things that go into the first one that you don’t really recall. You are so excited for it and then actually win it. That had to be the pinnacle because as a collective you realize that you were the best. That has to be one of the best moments I ever had. Trying to repeat was another great moment. Going back to back was really special for us together to be able to accomplish.
AE: You have a great foundation called All Stars Helping Kids. Tell me about the foundation and what made you create this foundation?
RL: The foundation was centered around that anyone can be an all star. I believe that we had a number of people that stepped up to be all stars within the 20 plus years we have been associated with helping people around the country. I have been very fortunate to be a catalyst of just letting everybody know that they can be an all star. You go with the corporations, partnerships, and the relationships over the years that allowed us to make it happen.
We have had a number of friends and family, just a list of people that had helped us. At the same time I think what has been fascinating to me is that we continue to believe that there are all stars out there. Each and every day you meet a guy like Chris Bischof from Eastside Prep, who is making an incredible difference for kids coming out of East Palo Alto. We have a partnership with Justin Tuck with what he is doing and Stacey Tisdale and her financial literacy program. So there are a lot of people who are stepping up and becoming all stars to help young people and make a difference.
AE: You are a father of three kids. What is the best piece of advice you have given your children?
RL: The best thing is to exhaust life. Live life to its fullest. Anything you try to do to do your best. To me I know that our kids know that each and every day that they are going to fail. They know each and every day that things are not going to work out for them, but they are going to give their best. They have done that and we are so proud of our kids because they have been able to travel around the world and see people doing just that.
Kids that don’t have anything are trying to do their best. Kids that don’t have anything are still trying to love other people. We have been fortunate enough to have our kids see that and I think a lot of that is obviously my wife has a lot to do with that. As a dad you try to at least do everything you can because you want your kids at some point to be able to do that for not only their kids, but for other kids around the globe.
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