Football never needed to defend its life. It never needed a wingman to watch its back.
Today, it does.
Are you aware the crime rate among NFL players is lower than that of the general population? Probably not, because the domestic abuser down the street doesn’t wind up on SportsCenter like the linebacker does.
Do you realize some college players made it through their careers without arrest, serious injury or academic scandal, that some of them actually went to class and turned in the papers and earned their grades, and still found time to tidy up their world?
On Sunday, Ronnie Lott will present the 14th Lott IMPACT Trophy at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, the day after Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield gets his Heisman Trophy.
The Heisman doesn’t demand much beyond statistics. Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel both won it, and Mayfield’s bouts of acting out will not preclude his victory.
The Lott trophy is different. Its winners are among the best players, sure, but you don’t have to be a running back or a quarterback with a large book of numbers. You do have to be a good student and keep yourself out of handcuffs, and then you have to know there’s something out there beyond the film room, waiting for role models and mentors.
David Pollack of Georgia, the ESPN commentator, was the first winner. UCLA’s Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks won it in back-to-back years.
This year’s nominees are Alabama cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell, Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips and Virginia linebacker Micah Kiser.
The IMPACT stands for integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity. The trophy is named for Lott, the Hall of Famer from USC and the 49ers, who excelled at every DB position and credits Mike Salmon, the brother of ex-Angel star Tim, as the prime mover of the program.
Lott was one of the most persuasive hitters in NFL history, especially when he played the satirically named position of…