Ronald Mandel Lott (born May 8, 1959) is a former American college and professional football player who was a cornerback, free safety, and strong safety in the National Football League (NFL) for fourteen seasons during the 1980s and 1990s. Lott played college football for the University of Southern California (USC), and was honored as a consensus All-American. A first-round pick in the 1981 NFL Draft, he played professionally for the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Raiders, New York Jets, and Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL. Lott was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000, and is widely considered to be one of the best of all time at the safety position in NFL history and one of the best players in NFL history.
Lott was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He attended Frisbie Junior High and Eisenhower High School in Rialto, California, where he played football under Coach Bill Christopher and graduated in 1977. He considered his time at Eisenhower High School the best years of his life. It is commonly thought that he was the best player on his team, he started as a wide receiver in 1975 as a sophomore, started at wide receiver and safety in 1976 as a junior, and in 1977 he started at quarterback and safety. The football stadium was recently named after Lott, even though he never played in the stadium. Lott was also the winner of the 1977 Ken Hubbs Award, given to the greater San Bernardino, California area's top male high school athlete.
Lott graduated from the University of Southern California in 1981 with a degree in public administration. During his years at USC (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. He was also a 1995 inductee to the USC Athletic Hall of Fame.
Upon entering USC, Lott and teammate and future NFL star Marcus Allen were both considered for the tailback and safety positions. After much consideration, head coach John Robinson asked Lott to play defense because he was a better tackler than Allen. He was also supposedly one of the reasons that USC teammate Riki Ellison got into the NFL after he and Jerry Attaway (their USC conditioning coach) convinced Bill Walsh to take a chance on him.
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. His outstanding play resulted in his finishing second for Rookie of the Year honors, behind New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
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, and a bone graft surgery wouldn't have him ready in time for the 1986 season. 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 that were on all four 1980s 49er Super Bowl wins. 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. Beyond statistics, Lott had an uncanny awareness of how a play was developing, which allowed him to break up passes and earn a reputation as one of the hardest and most efficient open-field tacklers in the history of the league.
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 currently on a show called PAC-12 Playbook on the PAC-12 television network.
Lott was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His father served a career in the United States Air Force, retiring as a Senior master sergeant. He now lives in Cupertino, California, with his wife, Karen, and his children, Hailey, Isaiah, Anthony Jose Leon and Chloe. The USA Today praised him as "one of the most successful athletes at making the transition to business." Along with former teammates Harris Barton and Joe Montana, Lott was a managing partner and a founder of HRJ Capital. Lott also owns both Toyota and Mercedes-Benz car dealerships, and opened World Sports Cafe in Fresno, California. He also advises professional athletes who are making a transition to the business world. Lott is also the father of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Ryan Nece.
In 1991, Lott, along with Jill Lieber, wrote an autobiography, Total Impact.
Lott inspired the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is given annually by the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation to college football's Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. The 2011 winner was Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly.
Lott was the guest of honor at a CYO fundraiser at Sharon Heights Country Club in Menlo Park, CA in May 2012 where he discussed the importance of helping the community. Lott credits the late Coach Ben Parks as a central figure in the development of his vigorous philanthropic work.
Lott is an avid fan of the San Jose Sharks.
On February 17, 2015 he was appointed to the Board of Directors of GSV Capital Corporation, a publicly traded investment fund.