Ronnie Lott played 14 seasons in the NFL for the 49ers, Raiders, and Jets. The hard-hitting defensive back made a career of his ball-hawking ability and his monster hits on receivers. In seven of his 14 seasons, Lott snagged five or more interceptions, his high being 10 in 1986. Lott led the league in interceptions twice and is currently tied at eighth all-time with Darren Sharper. He is also currently 19th in career combined tackles.
In three seasons at USC Ronnie Lott compiled 14 interceptions, leading all players with 8 in just 11 games during the 1980 season. USC shared the 1978 National Championship and won the Rose Bowl in 1979 and 1980. After being selected number 8 overall in the 1981 NFL draft, Lott broke onto the pro scene in a big way. He started all 16 games his rookie season with the 49ers, intercepted 7 passes (three of which he returned for touchdowns), and was responsible for 89 tackles. He added two interceptions and a touchdown in the playoffs en route to the first of four Super Bowl victories for the 49ers from 1981 to 1990. His rookie season was also the first of his ten Pro Bowl selections and six First-Team All-Pro honors. He narrowly missed the 1981 AP Defensive Player of the Year to rookie and league Defensive Player of the Year Lawrence Taylor.
As a defensive back in the 80s and 90s, Ronnie Lott was known for his toughness and grit. Perhaps the biggest example of his determination, Lott had his left pinky finger amputated in 1985. He broke his finger in the regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. With the San Francisco 49ers set to play in the Wildcard round against the New York Giants, Lott had a decision to make. He could either have surgery to place a pin in his pinky finger, which would require a cast and eight weeks of recovery, or he could have it amputated. Lott chose amputation at the first joint and played the following week. Unfortunately for him, the 49ers would lose the game 14-3 to Phil Simms and the Giants. Lott later confessed he regretted the decision and would have chosen surgery if he could do it all over again. He did, however, return the following year to record his career-high 10 interceptions and forced three fumbles. In addition, he led the 49ers defense for the next five years to two more Super Bowl championships.
The hard-hitting DB retired from the NFL after the 1994 season, his second with the New York Jets. He left the field to try his hand in business. He currently manages a successful investment firm. Lott’s inspiring career culminated in his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in 2000. He was also selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade Teams for the 1980s and 1990s, to this point one of only 30 players to receive that honor in two decades. He also was the first safety chosen for the NFL’s top 100 All-Time Team. The National Collegiate Athletic Association created the Lott IMPACT Trophy in 2004 presented to a defensive player each year that exemplifies Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community, and Tenacity. Ronnie Lott is also considered by many to be the top defensive back of the modern era.
There is little doubt about the impact Ronnie Lott had during his time in the NFL. His athletic ability and unparalleled tenacity made him one of the most feared defenders teams would face. With undeniable love for the game and his teammates, Lott left everything he could on the field and continues to be honored for his contributions.