Pro Football Hall of Fame
July 29, 2000
Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. Today we are here to honor five of football's greatest men. But I’m here specially to pay tribute to my son Ronnie Lott. For all of his accomplishments on and off the football field, I could spend many hours talking about Ronnie's awards, accolades, and achievements. But today, I am here to honor the man behind the helmet. The man who gave 100 percent off the field. Ronnie’s dream was always to follow the yellow brick road. At the early age of five Ronnie started his path down the yellow brick road. It was at Bradberry Heights Elementary School in Maryland where Ronnie earned his very first trophy, and from that point on he always wanted to be a winner. After leaving Washington D.C. we moved to southern California. At San Bernardino, Ronnie continued to pursue his dream of playing sports. Our family and several other families in the area were instrumental in starting a team with a local junior All-America organization, helping to enrich the lives of the children in the community. The San Bernardino Jets evolved and that was the start of Ronnie's football career.
While with the Jets, Ronnie developed many skills such as leadership, being a team player, and his love for the game. We moved from San Bernardino to Rialto, California were Ronnie continued to excel at all areas of his life. At Frisbe Junior High and Eisenhower High School, Ronnie excelled in four different sports. Ronnie also excelled and studied very, very hard to receive the highest grades possible, and of course, he did. For being a leader on the field, he was a leader at USC. Ronnie set an example by obtaining his degree in four years. A leader of his family, encouraging his children to become beneficial members of society. A leader in his community, he developed an organization to help all children to have a better chance at life. All-Stars Helping Kids sponsors many educational and health projects. These projects let children know that their hopes and dreams are only one step away. Ronnie, it was you God chose to do all these things. Ronnie, through his spirit of giving, leading and love has made the world a better place for all people. Especially for those who have had the chance to have a friendship with the man behind the helmet.
Ronnie’s a man with heart, he never gave up doing his journey down the yellow brick road, no matter what the coarse had to offer. A man who maintained his integrity on and off the football field. A man whose character would make any man proud to be his father, and today I speak to all fathers, this could happen to you. As I reflect back, I am amazed at all the good things God has done in our lives, such as blessing Ronnie with great success. There have been many times throughout Ronnie’s career that our family has prayed and we have talked about how our family has been blessed. As we talk, we are overwhelmed by, and grateful for all the things that God has done in Ronnie’s life. We thought about how we have been blessed with good health, food, jobs, and shelter. We thought about all the family, friends, and fans that have helped him in various ways. Some gave prayers, some gave advice, and moral support. That is just the tip of the iceberg. As our family thought about all these things, it made us think about you Ronnie. It was you who worked, trained, and sacrificed to accomplish your goals in life. It was you who stayed up late studying in high school and college. It was you who stayed focused. You faithfully considered others. You helped make our community and the world around you better. Our world is made up of some amazing people, and you are one of them. God chose you for this journey, you chose to let Him lead.
In closing, thank you Ronnie. Thank you for sharing your time. Thank you for sharing you talent. For we love you so much. We were really pleased to be a part of this journey. Again, thank you for sharing your life with us. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce to you, my son, Ronald Mandel Lott.
Thank you Dad. It’s funny because he said that I’d do alright. You did alright, Dad. You did alright. Today all this glory goes to God. My Dad just mentioned how God plays important part in our lives. But as I stand here in the huddle of greatness, I feel so much of Your spirit. This is truly awesome. The gathering of football legends. It’s amazing. So I feel the spirit if these men who are not physically with us today. I think about the guys that are gone like Bob McKittrick, Derrick Thomas, Eric Turner, Dave Waymer, Carl Monroe, John Ayers, Ray Nitschke, Tom Landry, and Walter Payton. These people inspired me through their unique contributions, as an individual they continue to inspire me. I’d like to ask for a moment of silence in of honor these great men.
There many giants who have allowed me to stand on their shoulders to see success. No truly great achievement is ever the result of purely individual effort and this is particularly true of professional football, the ultimate team sport. In football, a player can only realize his full potential with the support of his teammates. With the teaching and the encouragement of his coaches. And from the challenge presented by his opponents on the field. I’d like to start by acknowledging some true giants. The owners and founders of this great league. For nurturing this great league, for bearing the cost for sustaining the institution of professional football. I’m talking about people like the Rooneys. Of course, here, the Brown family. Leon Hess in New York, he’s not with us any longer. I played for another man who helped build this league, Mr. Al Davis. He built the AFL, and dominated it for many years with the silver and black. But in my mind, there has been no greater owner … that’s right … han Mr. Eddie DeBartolo. He set the highest standard, and has raised the bar for all the other owners to reach. Mr. D, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your Hall of Fame moment will surely come for what you’ve accomplished: your five Super Bowl victories and building one of the most dominating franchises in NFL history. I will be here for that moment. I am grateful for the giants who sacrificed, who fought for what they believed. For who wouldn’t give up. They carved a path of opportunity for players like me to follow. People like Paul Robeson, Marion Motley, John Mackey, Earl Faison, Jim Brown, “Night Train” Lane. Then there are giants I looked up to as a kid. One of the reasons I wear 42, Paul Warfield. One of the reasons I have so much compassion for my teammates, Gale Sayers. Charley Taylor. Charley Taylor, there’s a man that I used to sit and dream about, and then watching the Redskins’ Over the Hill Gang. Watching them and feeling their passion was awesome. I met one of my heroes early on in my life, his name was Deacon Jones. And at a banquet early in my career he said to me “Be the best.” I took that to heart and I tried to set his example of being the best. Deacon, I thank you.
I couldn’t of made it this far without my teachers and coaches. They were all giants in my life. My high school coach, Bill Christopher, who would make us listen to the General Patton speech, and I don’t know if you guys have heard the General Patton speech, but I’d lay there every night in the dark thinking about what it’s like to be an American and how we don’t tolerate losers. It toughened our spirit and strengthened our resolve and I appreciate it.
Thank you John Robinson. I know you are here. You taught me how to compete at USC. You gave me so much. To Dennis Thurman, Dennis Thurman you helped me with my skills. You helped me become a better football player. To coach Ben Parks, who trained me at the end of my career. And man, if it wasn’t for your faith, I don’t know if I would have been able to make it. To Art Shell, a man of all men, and a great coach. To George Seifert and Ray Rhodes, they taught me the art of defense. To Bill Walsh, he demanded perfection and set a standard of excellence for all us to strive for. Bill, I’m forever grateful to you. Thank you. And to the players, to the players of this great game, the warriors, the guys who love to hit people. I’m talking about the giants like Dick Butkus. I’m talking about Jack Tatum. Guys like Reggie White, Kenny Easley, and Jack Lambert, I know you’re here with us, you were definitely a worrier. And to my teammates, Eric Wright, Carlton Williamson, Dwight Hicks, Jeff Fuller, Tom Holmoe, Rick Gervais, Keena Turner, Harris Barton, Fred Dean, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, and of course, Howie. Also, I want to mention two other teammates that I had at USC. And these two guys traveled with me throughout my four years at USC. Dennis Smith and Eric Scoggins, I love you. And two of my favorite warriors of all, Marcus Allen, Charles Haley. You know what I love about you guys. Your undeniable love, I love you. To all the guys I played with, thank you. Throughout my life, it's always been a team effort and I continue to have that in my life and I know that being a part of the Hall of Fame, I always will honor this team.
I’m especially grateful for one teammate. A giant of a man. A man who showed courage and set an example for me and the rest of our team: Joe Montana. Joe, you gave me the courage to face adversity. The courage to deal with pain. You taught me never to give up. I thank you for your friendship and your inspiration. Joe, I’m so honored to be here with you today. I wish all of you had his soul, he’s got a great soul, folks, a great soul. Great human being.
I want to say thank you, as well, to my family. I wouldn’t be here today without your love and support. Mom, thank you for the great relationship we’ve had and continue to have. You gave me the gift of life, you taught me so much about it. For my brother, Roy. For my sister, Susie. You always supported me, and thank you, I love you. I give thanks to my sons, Ryan and Isaiah. To my daughters, Hailey and Chloe, for you never ending love. I give thanks to my wife and best friend. I love you. Karen, you are the best.
I stand a little straighter and a little taller here today because of the greatest giant of all, my loving Dad. He taught me to seek success in all facets in my life. He taught me the values of life, the purpose for living. He taught me to have honor and to show respect. Dr. Edwards once said, that people who come to your funeral, come not for what you accomplished, but for what you stand for. Dad, you stand as our rock. I love you.
And finally, and finally, to all the football fans out here, I hope you love this game as much as I do. I’ve been very fortunate to be around greatness this weekend. One of the things that I found out about greatness, is the character. It’s amazing when you’re around greatness and what you see. I hope you guys all have the opportunity to feel like I’ve felt this past weekend. Each and everyone of these men behind me have given more than just their body and soul, they’ve given it all to you. They’ve given it all to you. It’s a incredible feeling to be around so many great men. So many great men. And I want to thank all of you football fans for allowing me to be a part of your lives. This is amazing.
In closing, one day we’ll look back at this moment, and we’ll look back at this moment, because this is the greatest moment in the history of pro football. To have all of these great Hall of Famers here. And we’ll look back at this moment, and it won’t be because of what we’ve accomplished here, it’s going to be because of what these guys have been able to accomplish with themselves. And I hope all of you understand that these men are not just football players, they’re great men. They’re great people. They love this game.
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this Hall of Fame. Thank you for allowing me to touch all of your lives in a special way. Thank you.