Ronald Mandel “Ronnie” Lott is a former American football player who starred as a cornerback, free safety and strong safety in college football and the NFL. He is most well known for his hard hits on opposing players. Noted for his toughness (he once cut off a portion of his pinkie in order to return to a game) and a Pro Bowler at both cornerback and safety, Lott is widely considered one of the best defensive backs in NFL history.
During his years at University of Southern California (1977–1980), he helped the team to a share of the 1978 national championship and played in the 1979 and 1980 Rose Bowls. Lott was a unanimous All-American and team captain in 1980. In 2002, he was inducted as one of 15 new members (I-A class) of the College Football Hall of Fame.
After college, Lott was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round (8th overall pick) of the 1981 NFL Draft. The level of skill demonstrated by the 6-foot, 203-pound standout was instantly recognized, and from the very beginning of training camp he had the job as the 49ers’ starting left cornerback. In his first season, he recorded seven interceptions, helped the 49ers to win Super Bowl XVI, and also became only the second rookie in NFL history to return three interceptions for touchdowns.
Lott switched to the safety position in 1985. He had the tip of his left pinky finger amputated after the 1985 season when it was crushed by tackling running back Timmy Newsome. A 1986 injury sidelined him for the season’s last two games, but he still led the league with a career-best 10 interceptions, while recording 77 tackles, three forced fumbles, and two quarterback sacks. In his 10 years with the 49ers, Lott helped them win eight division titles and four Super Bowls: XVI (1981 season), XIX (1984), XXIII (1988), and XXIV (1989). He is one of five players to play for the 49ers on all four of their Super Bowl wins during the 1980s. The other four are quarterback Joe Montana, linebacker Keena Turner, cornerback Eric Wright, and wide receiver Mike Wilson.
After his career with San Francisco, Lott signed as a free agent in 1991 with the Los Angeles Raiders, and in 1993 with the New York Jets. In 1991, he led the league in interceptions (8) for a second time. In 1995, Lott signed a free agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, but was injured in the preseason. He returned to the 49ers in 1995, but the injuries he had suffered over the previous four seasons continued to plague him, and he announced his retirement before the season began. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000, his first year of eligibility, and was also named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team.
In his 14 NFL seasons, Lott recorded 8.5 sacks and 63 interceptions, which he returned for 730 yards and five touchdowns. He recovered 17 fumbles, returned them for 43 yards, and gained 113 yards on kickoff returns. Lott also played in 20 postseason games, recording nine interceptions, 89 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and two touchdowns. He was also named All-Pro eight times, All-NFC six times, and All-AFC once.
Lott turned to broadcasting following his retirement, serving as an analyst on Fox NFL Sunday in 1996 and 1997, and working on the network’s game coverage in 1998. He is a football studio analyst on the PAC-12 Network and is currently seen on the “Football Pre-game Show,” which previews all the weekend’s action each Saturday.
Lott was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He now lives in Cupertino, California, with his wife, Karen, and his children, Hailey, Isaiah, and Chloe. The USA Today praised him as “one of the most successful athletes at making the transition to business.” He now manages $2.4 billion in private-equity investments and owns both Toyota and Mercedes-Benz car dealerships. He also advises professional athletes who are making a transition to the business world.