You Have to Be a Rookie Again

“When we have it right, we are the greatest country in the world,” says Pac-12 Networks Football Studio Analyst, Ronnie Lott. Lott was referring to the importance of character and having a moral compass pointed in the right direction, both individually and collectively as a nation. In the above interview, filmed at the 2015 Independent Show, this four-time Super Bowl champion points out that sports are a great vehicle for learning right and wrong and building good character.

The true lessons from sports come not from the victories, but from learning how to recognize and learn from mistakes as well as rebounding from the inevitable losses. For coaches and parents (the ultimate coaches), creating an environment where kids can “fail”, but want to continue to improve is the goal. Along these lines, Lott discusses the Positive Coaching Alliance and the work they are doing to help amateur coaches learn how to use sports to help build character [see this Viodi article from 2005 referencing his early association with the then-nascent PCA].

When asked how he made the transition from top athlete to success in business, Lott’s sage advice is, “You have to be a rookie again.” That is, you do everything and anything to be part of the team. Humbling oneself plants the seeds for tomorrow’s success.

Author’s Note:

Having lived in the Bay Area during Lott’s football pinnacle in the 1980s, I felt I had some idea of the type of character he had. He wrote a weekly sports column in those days that was a favorite of mine. I remember another story where he straightened out some high school kids for making fun of some anti-drug messaging. Still, often the perception of a person who you read about in the press is not the same as reality.

In the case of Ronnie Lott, the reality was better than perception. The first clue of his character was the length of the line of people at the Pac-12 Networks waiting to get his autograph. A big part of the reason for the line was that he was engaging each person in real conversation. He spent about five minutes with my son talking about his high school and various common interests the two have.

Doing research for this article, it is amazing the number of charitable ventures with which Lott is involved. Especially moving is this 6-minute video that features he and his wife, Karen, discussing the importance of giving. It is difficult to believe that a guy, who some describe as the hardest hitter ever and had part of his finger amputated so he wouldn’t let his team down, is the same one who describes love in such a touching way.

2 responses to “You Have to Be a Rookie Again”

  1. Alan Weissberger Avatar

    Excellent interview Ken! Moral compass and knowing right from wrong are invaluable attributes kids need to develop. “You can make mistakes and still be successful,” Lott said. How true!

    I had a long chat with Lott at the 2013 SCU Sports Law symposium. He is very modest when I asked him “do you think defensive backs are the best athletes?” He said he thought basketball players were. Ronnie said he played baseball, basketball and football in high school. He played basketball in his first year at USC before concentrating exclusively on football. He told me he works out regularly at the gym, but gave up running long time ago as it was too tough on his joints (ditto for me)!

    SCU Mag interview:

  2. Ken Pyle Avatar

    Thanks for the kinds words and the additional insight, Alan. Thanks for the link to the other article!

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