Ronnie Lott Accepts Play It Smart Leadership Role
April 13, 2006
Former USC and NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott has agreed to serve as chairman of the National Advisory Board for the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame's highly-successful Play It Smart program and as the honorary chairman of the Play It Smart Fundraising Committee, the NFF announced today (April 13).
'Play It Smart helps thousands of kids each year,' said NFF President Steven J. Hatchell. 'Ronnie's reputation on and off the field makes him a great ambassador for this unique program as we look to grow its impact nationwide.'
Launched in 1998 and currently in 136 high schools (listed at www.playitsmart.org) in 35 states, Play It Smart trains 'academic' coachesto work with high school football teams in underserved areas during the entire school year, taking the transferable life skills learned on the field and applying them in the classroom and the community.
Current Trojan All-American wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett participated in Play It Smart while at New Brunswick (N.J.) High. Incoming USC football players Alfred Rowe, Vincent Joseph and Travon Patterson of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High also were involved with Play It Smart.
'Football changed my life,' said Lott. 'It taught me discipline, teamwork, tenacity, and other valuable life skills that I use everyday as a businessman. By providing Play It Smart academic coaches to schools in underserved areas, we can have a dramatic impact on the lives of thousands of at-risk kids by connecting their success on the playing field to what they need to do in the classroom.'
With major financial support from the NFL and the NFL Players Association, corporations, communities and individuals, the program has achieved dramatic results, including:
*98% of participants graduating high school, compared to a national rate of 86%;
*80% of seniors enrolling in college compared to 64% of their peers;
*Participants completing more than 25,000 hours of community service annually;
*Rosters increasing by 35% for teams with fewer than 40 players.
As chairman of the NFF's newly created Play It Smart National Advisory Board, Lott will provide critical visibility for the program during a $5-million fundraising drive while lending his name and credibility to a proven program that high schools across the country are clamoring to implement. The National Advisory Board, comprised of leaders in the fields of education, business and community affairs, will provide financial oversight and support as the program continues to expand.
A legend in college football as a defensive back at USC (1977-1980), Lott went on to a pro career that spanned 14 seasons in the NFL (1981-95) with the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Raiders and New York Jets. He earned induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
He has achieved significant success in the business world as a partner in several award-winning auto dealerships and as the co-founder of HRJ Capital (formerly Champion Ventures), a $759-million private equity investment firm that concentrates on venture capital, leveraged buy-outs and the real-estate sector. In 2001, Lott also founded Olympius Capital, a minority-controlled firm that manages $195 million and is committed to providing investors with access to world-class alternative asset funds, including domestic and offshore partnerships.
A fixture with numerous community organizations, Lott serves on the board of Villa Montalvo, a non-profit dedicated to inspiring a love of the arts, and as an Honorary Guardsman, a service organization devoted to advancing at-risk Bay Area youth by funding indoor and outdoor education programs. In 1989, Lott founded All Stars Helping Kids, a non-profit organization, which helps disadvantaged youth in the Bay Area. The organization touts the All Stars Technology Room and children's garden at the UCSF Children's Hospital among its many achievements. In 2002, Lott was voted into the Golden Gate Chapter of the Young President's Organization (YPO), an exclusive network for exchanging ideas and strategies between more than 8,000 of the world's most influential corporate presidents. Lott and his wife Karen reside in Cupertino with their three children.