Ronnie Lott San Francisco 49ers & Los Angeles Raiders & New York Jets
"The way I play is important to me, because I know I’m not gifted with great athletic ability or speed. But god always gives you the ability to do one thing, and that’s to try hard. That’s my attitude. If that means going out and running into somebody who’s bigger or faster or tougher than you, you just do it.”
Ronnie Lott, an All-America from Southern California, was the San Francisco 49ers’ first round draft pick and the eighth player chosen overall in the 1981 National Football League Draft. The 6-0, 203-pound defensive back made an immediate impression and was named the starting left cornerback from his first day in training camp.
In his first NFL season, Lott led a young secondary that helped the 49ers to win Super Bowl XVI. He became the second rookie in NFL history to return three interceptions for touchdowns. His outstanding play resulted in his finishing second to another defensive standout, Lawrence Taylor, for Rookie of the Year honors.
Known for his hard-hitting style, Lott was used at both left and right cornerback positions and as a free and strong safety during his 14-year career. The versatile defensive back earned 10 Pro Bowl invitations at three different positions – cornerback, free safety, and strong safety. It was, however, at free safety, where he had the freedom to cover the whole field, that he may have been most effective.
In 1986, he played 14 games at the free safety position before an injury sidelined him for the final two games of the season. Still, he led the league with a career-most 10 interceptions, recorded 77 tackles, three forced fumbles and two quarterback sacks. It was perhaps his finest season. During his career with the 49ers (1981-1990), Los Angeles Raiders (1991-1992), and the New York Jets (1993-1994) Lott recorded 63 career interceptions and twice led the league.
A complete player, he surpassed the 1,000-career tackle mark in 1993, and had five seasons of at least 100 tackles. In his ten seasons with the 49ers, San Francisco won eight NFC Western Division titles and four Super Bowls. In 20 playoff contests (all starts), he recorded nine interceptions, 89 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and two touchdowns.
It has been said that Lott had the uncanny ability of being able to sense the direction a play was about to take and then somehow disrupt it. “He’s like a middle linebacker playing safety,” Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry once remarked. “He’s devastating. He may dominate the secondary better than anyone I’ve seen.” Named All-Pro eight times, All-NFC six times, and All-AFC once, Lott was also named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team.