The Anatomy of a Woooo Lick: Ronnie Lott Talks With The Starting Five’s Sean Mitchell

Ferocious hitter and all out professional

I got the chance to chat with one of the most accomplished defensive backs in NFL history, Ronnie Lott. Lott, who switched from cornerback to strong safety to free safety during his career, played 14 seasons. 10 of those seasons were with the San Francisco 49ers where along with all-time greats  Joe Montana and Jerry Rice he won four Super Bowl titles in the 1980’s. During his Hall of Fame career, the 10 time Pro Bowler produced big hits and stats alike, totaling 1,133 tackles, 63 interceptions (5 TD’s) and 16 forced fumbles in 192 games (189 starts). In 20 postseason games he recorded 89 tackles, 9 interceptions and one forced fumble.

Additionally, he played his college football at USC under the guidance of legendary coach John Robinson and along side Marc Mitchell, my father. He also played in high school at Eisenhower High School in Rialto, California…my former hometown.

Enough of how Ronnie relates to me, let’s hear what he had to say…

Sean Mitchell: What are you doing now days?

Ronnie Lott: Right now I’m just working and taking care of my family and just focused on the things I need to do every day with my businesses, trying learn how to get better just like I did when I was playing football.

SM: How’s that finger? I read how you injured it and had to amputate it and all I can say is “ouch!”

RL: My finger is fine, I’ve never had a problem with it. [As for dealing with it]–in life, there are a number of people who have had injuries and who have had amputations. We just learn how to move on and I think that I’m a lot like a lot of people that have had something amputated on their body. You learn to deal with the emotion of it all.

SM: What was the best part about playing during the 49ers glory years?

RL: My favorite moment when I was with the 49ers was in 1981 when we first won the Super Bowl. The reason that was my favorite was because nobody was really a superstar here. So all of us were working and trying be the best that we could be. But we weren’t great players, so it took us a long time before we went became great.

SM: You regularly went to the Pro Bowl. What was you favorite Pro Bowl experience and did the “wow” factor of Hawaii ever wear thin on you? What was your favorite Super Bowl experience?

RL: My favorite Pro Bowl experience has always been the year we had all four defensive backs and the fact that I was on the 49ers. That was a great experience to play with the whole secondary and to be with Dwight Hicks, Carlton Williamson and Eric Wright–all three of those guys I played with throughout the years. For all of us to just be over there was phenomenal. My favorite Super Bowl experience was watching that last drive against the Cincinnati Bengals and watching Joe and them go down the field to win that game. [Super Bowl XXIII]

The drive that put Joe Montana’s clutch play on the NFL map.

SM: Art Monk said that a hit you laid on him “messed [him] up for his career?” What’s the hardest hit you ever remember laying on someone? Also why did you call tackling someone “running through” them and why is it called a “woo lick?”

RL: Running through somebody and trying to make a tackle is a very difficult thing to do. The one that I’ll always remember is the one against [Atlanta Falcons great] William Andrews that I thought I had given him the best hit I’d ever given anyone and I wasn’t able to bring him down. William Andrews always reminds me that you can bring your best hit and still not be able to knock somebody down.

And two, one of the best things to ever come out of a hit is the woo lick. When you talk about a woo lick…it’s when the crowd goes “wooooooo.” It’s that one hit where everybody cringes or that one hit where everybody goes “wooooo,” that’s what a woo lick is about. That’s the only time you hear a crowd do something like at the scene of an accident. When you see an accident happen, it’s amazing because everybody remembers that big accident then they go “woo.” And that’s a woo lick.

SM: What’s the funniest story you have from your playing days, at USC, from the NFL and even back at Eisenhower High in Rialto?

RL: I remember the funniest thing. I was trying to catch a punt in high school at an all-star game and I fell into a gopher hole, my ankle buckled. I went to reach for my ankle, I then came back to try and find the ball. The next thing I know the ball bounced on my head and then I had to go find the ball and after I found the ball, I felt like I had twenty or thirty guys come and tackle me. Embarrassing moment, ankle twisted, the ball bounced up in the air and getting tattooed by 11 guys was not fun.

SM: How much of an honor is it to have a trophy named after you, the Lott Trophy in college football?

RL: It’s a huge honor and is probably one that I’m reminded of everyday in all my actions. It’s something I have to be cognizant of it because there’s a lot to live up to when it comes up to that award. A lot of things that go with that award and I have to make sure I don’t compromise that award.

SM: Okay last question: could you talk about your charity All Stars Helping Kids and it’s impact on the community?

RL: To me the biggest thing in life is just trying to turn young people [around], trying to see what you can do, trying to see how you can get other people to give back, trying to inspire people to get involved in their community and trying to inspire more people to give back to the community. We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve been able to get people to play and get people to try and make a difference in their communities. We’ve been lucky that this has happened in the twenty years All-Star has been around.

4 Responses to “The Anatomy of a Woooo Lick: Ronnie Lott Talks With The Starting Five’s Sean Mitchell”

  1. Temple3 says:

    Great stuff.

    Just one quick thing…that’s Dwight Hicks and Merton Hanks.

  2. Miranda says:

    Wow….I never even knew he had switched positions.

  3. marc says:

    Good interview Sean. Yea, Ronnie definetly brought the HAT! He would turn your lights out. Keep up the good work man, I definitely feel that you’re going places with your articles & interviews. Stay on top of your game!

  4. […] If you have ever heard him talk about tackling, then you probably remember him mentioning a “woo lick”. Here’s how he describes a “woo lick” via The Starting Five: […]