One of the most underrated positions in football is the safety. They are the last line of defense for a team and need to be able to be rangy and play across the entirety of the field. While a few different players can stake their claim as the best safety ever (such as Ed Reed, Brian Dawkins and Troy Polamalu), none have the argument that Ronnie Lott does. Lott did it all at the safety position for some amazing teams and here I will take you on a trip down memory lane to look at his legacy.
Even from his time in high school in California (even though he was born in New Mexico), Lott had the look of a generational athlete. He played on both sides of the ball all throughout high school and after his historic career, his high school even named their football stadium after him. After high school, Lott decided to stay local and attend the University of Southern California. He stayed in school all four years, got a degree, and helped his team win the 1978 National Championship and also played in two Rose Bowls.
His great college resume, powerful hits and amazing vision were only some of the reasons why he was selected 8th overall by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1981 NFL Draft. Right from the first few days of training camp, he had earned the role of starting CB and had an outstanding rookie year. He recorded 7 interceptions (3 of which he returned for touchdowns) and helped the 49ers win the Super Bowl. After a few more seasons, prior to the 1985 season, Lott switched to the safety position, which would be his home for the rest of his career.
His career stats and accomplishments are unmatched by most safeties who have ever played the game. He was a four time Super Bowl champion, made 10 Pro Bowls, named to 8 All Pro teams and had 63 interceptions. He was also one of only four players to be a part of all the 1980’s Super Bowl wins for the 49ers. But beyond what is shown on paper in the form of stats, Lott just had the “it” factor that everyone is after for the safety position. He had a seemingly innate ability to see a play develop before it did, which allowed him to make great plays on the ball or lay out one of his punishing hits. Think of him as a harder hitting Ed Reed, who is probably the most recent example of someone who played with the football mind similar to Lott.
Since retiring, Lott has remained involved in NFL circles as he was an analyst on Fox and now currently works for the PAC-12 as a television host. He was entered into the Hall of Fame in 2000, and will absolutely go down as one of the best defenders and players in NFL history, and it is likely (that with the new rules) we will never see another safety play like Lott ever again.