Heavy Hitter: HOF’er Lott pays visit to Lenoir-Rhyne Bears

Cody Dalton
Sports Editor

After winning four Super Bowls and being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Ronnie Lott is trying to give back to the game that has given so much to him.

Lott continued his yearly tradition of speaking to Lenoir-Rhyne football players on Thursday, sharing his powerful message at Moretz Stadium following the team’s scheduled practice.

"All we want kids to understand and all we want them to do is to be their best,” Lott said. “The reason I love coming back to Lenoir-Rhyne is because it's guys like John Moretz and others here who want to do just that."

Moretz is responsible for bringing Lott back to Lenoir-Rhyne each year. In 1993, Lott signed an endorsement deal with Moretz’s company — Moretz Sports — and the two have remained friends ever since.

Lott has made the trip to Hickory for the past 16 years, speaking to Lenoir-Rhyne football players for nearly two decades now.

"It's a privilege that I have a chance to impact their lives,” Lott said. “To me, that responsibility is just like the responsibility of my dad. He impacted a lot of kid's lives over the years — not just mine, but other kids. He was in a boy's ranch, and he would talk to kids about their life and how they could be better. I've always been infatuated with the idea that maybe I can impact another person's life. Being able to do that is special. It is our responsibility. We do this because we are here to serve others."

Since 2003, Lenoir-Rhyne has presented the Ronnie Lott Heavy Hitter Award, given weekly to the Bears football player who had the hardest hit or the biggest impact in each of LR’s football games.

A total of $1,000 is also donated each week to Habitat For Humanity of Catawba County.

"Being a Heavy Hitter comes with a lot of responsibilities,” Lott said. “You are celebrated because you have something inside you that is special. When I had that as a young person and my coach told me that I could do things, it helped my life. It made me a better human being. I would imagine that's all we want those kids to have is a better life and be better human beings."

Still an avid fan of the game he once played, Lott sees a lot of himself in current Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly.

"I met Luke when he was being recruited,” Lott said. “I've followed his career. I admire what he stands for. I love the temperament of how he exhausts every moment. He knows that he is a young man that wants to do more than just be a football player. That's a guy that I don't mind watching. I don't mind making some popcorn and watching him in a game. Whatever I can do to see Luke Kuechly play, I enjoy doing it because he really is one of those guys that truly has that 'it.’ One of the all-time great linebackers — (Green Bay Packer) Ray Nitschke — once said to me 'hey man, you've got ‘it,’ and Luke Kuechly has 'it.’”

Lott also weighed in on the Carolina Panthers’ 1-5 record so far in 2016 after making it to Super Bowl 50 last season.

“Unfortunately, everybody continues to believe that this is going to be last year, but it's over with,” Lott said. “In 1982, I went through this. We realized that we were still living in 1981, and 1981 was over with. Here we are in 2016, and 2015 is over with. The bigger question and I've seen it, but what will they stand for the rest of this year? They may not win another game, but you've got to stand for something more than just going out there and playing. Right now, you can see that they aren't standing for anything."

Lott also believes Panthers quarterback Cam Newton should not have the finger pointed at him for walking out on press conferences following his team’s losses.

"This isn't about Cam,” he said. “This is a team. It wasn't about Cam last year. This is a team, and teams win. Everybody has to carry their weight. Right now, everybody is not carrying their weight. You don't make the kind of mistakes (the Panthers) make and see the types of things that you see. They didn't have all of that last year. They played sound football. People had to beat them last year. This year, they are beating themselves."

A former San Francisco 49er safety from 1981-90, Lott also weighed in on the controversy of current 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been spotted kneeling during the National Anthem in protest.

“Knowing what he does, would I do it? I can't,” Lott said. “My dad would tell me that we are a military family and that we can't. I would stand next to him, saluting him and believing in him because that's what I did when I played for Joe Montana. That's what I did when I played for Steve Young. That's what I did when played for Harris Barton, who is Jewish. I don't care. You are my teammate. I care what you stand for. I'm going to give you my excellence, and so that's what I believe. I have to have that kind of conviction about my excellence to Colin. I know right now that's what he's trying to commit to. It's hard. It's very hard."