Ron Lott is a professional football hall of famer from Eisenhower High School who some say had the potential to make the pro baseball hall of fame as well. Lott was at his alma mater recently to present Eisenhower a football hall of fame plaque in his honor. Lott is among just 265 in the pro football hall of fame. Regions like Riverside have produced at least 30 NFL players but does not one enshrined in Canton, Ohio. Within 15 miles, the San Bernardino region has produced three HOFers. Lott and Anthony Munoz from Chaffey HS paralleled each others football careers. Munoz graduated from high school in 1976 and Lott in 1977. They were twice named on the same all-Citrus Belt League teams in football and baseball. Lott also made all-CBL in basketball. Munoz was good at basketball but not all-CBL material. They were both College All-Americans together at USC and both were inducted into the pro football hall of fame within two years of each other. Both were 10-time NFL all-Pro’s and played in Super Bowl XVI. Each were voted by sports writers and fellow HOF members to the NFL’s all-time players list.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Anthony Munoz,” Lott said after talking to the Eisenhower HS student body. “He was not just a great athlete but a great person. He was very big for a third baseman (6-4, 230) but could get to the ball in a hurry. As a pitcher, try to hit his curveball. Almost impossible.”
The third hall of fame member from San Bernardino was Lem Barney who did not play high school football locally but played at the former Sturgis Junior High in San Bernardino. Like Lott, Barney was a hard-hitting defensive back.
Lott was one of the faces of the multi-Super Bowl winning San Francisco 49ers with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young for more than a decade. He named former Eisenhower HS teammate James Jones as someone who he felt had pro football potential. “I was just lucky to have good coaches who guided me along the golden brick road.” Lott named Ike coaches Bill Christopher, Ken Bailey, and Tom Hoak.
Lott first played football as a 10-year-old for the Junior All-American San Bernardino Jets with teammate Rodney Soward. Scott Haydis of San Bernardino remembered playing against Lott as pre-teens. “He was a quarterback. I think we played them once in the Orange Show Stadium. He was pretty good.” Lott played as a 12-year-old for manager Don Davey on the San-Ri Little League baseball all-star team.
Before the Lott’s moved to Rialto when he was 14, he played for manager and long time San Bernardino recreation leader Ludie Taylor on the En Canto Pony League Elks. The late Josh Carter was also one of his coaches and Teddy Brown and Gary Dawson were all-star teammates. According to the Rialto Record, Lott led Frisbie Junior High to the 1973 Twentynine Palms Basketball Tournament title. Two years later, he made all-CBL first team as a sophomore which was unheard of in those days.
Besides James Jones, Lott was a Ike football quarterback with teammates Jerry Sanchez, Jim Fawcett and Chuck DeSadier. Ike could never win a CBL title in football with Lott but won two in baseball and one in basketball. He was all-CBL in baseball for coaches Mike Mayne and Jerry Magness, whose 1977 team was ranked #4 in the nation.
Older sports fans in the San Bernardino area used to compare the abilities of Lott with the late Ken Hubbs from Colton HS. Hubbs was a prep all-American in football and basketball. Lott was named to two high school football all-American teams. Both were four-sport standouts who could exceed over six-feet in the high jump.
Jerry Magness was the closest person to both Hubbs and Lott. Before becoming an Ike assistant and later a head coach, Magness pitched six years in the Minnesota Twins system. He was a all-star teammate of Hubbs from Little League through their 1959 graduation at Colton HS. He coached Lott for three years. Before his death Magness spoke to the Rialto Record about the two sports legends.
“Ronnie and Kenny were similar. Both could inspire others and could think in advance and had an awareness of what to do,” recalled Magness. “They were good students, involved in student activities and winner’s on and off the field. You would want a son like either one of them.” Magness said a foot race between the two would be very close.
Magness considered Lott a Major League Baseball pro prospect who like Hubbs liked basketball the most. “Ronnie had all the baseball tools. he was a power hitting shortstop who was very quick. I did always see Ronnie as a football player and obviously he chose the right sport.” Magness said Lott’s baseball teammates at Ike were future pro baseball pitchers Dave Rucker, Dennis Vasquez, and Bobby Hudson. Others were Bill Hornsby, Rob Townley, Yogi Hopkins, and Jeff Oliphant.