Several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott’s former teammates at a golf event at the Pebble Beach resort in California. Lott, through his All Stars Helping Kids foundation helped me create the Winning Play$ financial education program and was kind enough to introduce me and the initiative to his friends.
As a lifelong football worshiper, for lack of a stronger word, I was overwhelmed by the legends in the room, including one of my favorite players of all time, Lott’s former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, quarterback Joe Montana.
Having no clue what to say to Montana when we were introduced, I asked him what was it like to play with Lott. He answered the question the same way everyone I asked that day did. “He makes you want to do better.”
Playing As A Team
In his decade long career as a 49er, Lott helped the team win 4 Super Bowls and 8 division titles. He is one of 5 players who was on all four 49er Super Bowl wins in the 1980’s – 1981, 1984, 1988, and 1989, and shared the field with such legends as Montana and Jerry Rice.
Fans like me will always remember what seemed like a ‘telepathic chemistry’ between those players, a chemistry Lott feels is at the heart of the success this year’s class brings to the field.
“A lot of times we talk about winning, but we forget about what we’re doing together,” Lott told me in a conversation earlier this week.
“The conversation about them coming together got there early in the season. It was about each other and playing for one another each day. They got their quickly, and how it all clicked is really unique.”
Nothing Last$ Forever
In 2021, the winners’ share for Super Bowl 55 was $130,000 along with the rest of the spoils of their victory like claiming a piece of the coveted Lombardi Trophy. When you add their take from the prior postseason rounds, the Super Bowl-winning players had an overall take home of about $250,000. That’s on top of the millions of dollars many earn through salaries and endorsements. Players on the losing team took home $65,000 apiece.
Lott says that he realized early on in his football career that he had to quickly figure out what he could do “through football,” not just on the field.
“It’s critical to understand that this is not going to be forever. At any given moment it can be taken away – like anything – and you have to think about what you do next…You have to ask yourself ‘then what?’ What will I do with my life and to create financial security for my family?”
“Plan B is even more important than Plan A.” – Ronnie Lott”
In the early years of Lott’s 14 season football career, he said his “Plan B” was to go into military service.
“The service provided my Dad and our family a way of being able to be around a community. It was a way to be around people that had certain disciplines, in addition to providing all the basics in life, and long-term security.”
As Lott and his career evolved, however, he ultimately ended up on the path of entrepreneurship. After briefly serving as an analyst for NFL Fox Sunday, he went on to create a venture capital fund, HRJ Capital with former teammates Joe Montana and Harris Barton.
Today, in addition to new financial ventures, Lott owns Toyota and Mercedes Benz dealerships, and has an autobiography called Total Impact, which shares insights on how to be successful off of the field.
Life Lessons – Money Lessons
“As entrepreneurs, we have to learn different languages. You want to be able to understand how people think in this new gig economy,” says Lott.
Lott adds that one of the things that’s important to entrepreneurial success is to have people around you who understand money. “You have to bring people in who know how to make money, leverage it, and utilize it. You should learn as much about that as you can, but today, you can even ‘rent’ someone with those skills to help you get on track. Learning how to evolve capital was definitely one of my most important money lessons.”
As for the one lesson about money Lott would like to convey to all: “You have to save…Even during tough times. “Not only do you have you have to save, but you have to make money work for you.”
Something we can all do as technology can help you save, invest, and even build credit with small sums simply using your cell phone.
One thing I’ve learned in the decade I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Lott and his family as friends, supporters, and mentors, is that you want to be on his side. On that note, this lifelong New York football fan says “Go 9ers!”