He was born when his father, James Lott, was playing safety at Clemson. He has pictures as a toddler being in the Chicago Bears’ locker room. His earliest football memory is as a 5-year-old playing Boys & Girls Club football for the Little Bears team coached by his grandfather.
“I knew football was probably going to be my sport because I was brought up around it,” he said.
Now, he’s in the Jacksonville State secondary, getting a second chance to play the game he was born to play, hoping to follow his father into the NFL.
The newest JSU player arrived in coach Bill Clark’s first preseason camp Saturday and has made a quick and easy transition, although the faster tempo of practice and Alabama heat are a lot different than he was used to at Appalachian State.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Lott in the three-man rotation with Junior Hough and
Rashod Byers where he could play either cornerback spot or nickel. He has one year of eligibility remaining.
“First day was kind of rough, but it’s been pretty good the last few days,”
Lott said. “It’s a new team so there are going to be different things you have to deal with, but as far as the surroundings and everything it’s kind of much like App.
“App’s built to win. Jacksonville State’s built to win. Coaches want to win.
Players want to win. It’s the same in both.”
Lott probably would still be at App State if he didn’t get sideways with the coaching staff over what he called “some poor decisions” on his part and was ultimately bounced from the team in the spring.
To his credit, with football off the table, he didn't let his studies slip and graduated last month with a 3.0-plus GPA in architecture.
He found his way to JSU because of another Clemson connection. The
Mountaineers receivers coach was a graduate assistant there with current Gamecocks linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Daric Riley.
“I look at it as a blessing,” Lott said. “Most guys don’t get a second chance. I made some poor decisions at App, but as long as I could get out with my degree that was the main thing.
“One thing (my father) tells me is always stay focused. He always told me to get my degree ... because if the League thing doesn’t work out because so many things can happen you need to have a solid base to fall back on. I’m very proud that when things got a little shaky I kept my goals straight-forward and was able to refocus and get back to doing what I needed to do and make a positive out of that negative.”
His mere presence at JSU provides some insight into Clark’s philosophy on taking Division I transfers.
Not one easily given to handing out second chances, Clark got a lot of assurances from the Appalachian State coaches about Lott, but still did his own due diligence before bringing the player into his first JSU team.
“I’m not telling you I will never take a guy who’s had an issue,” Clark said. “I’m saying I’ll ... know who this is before I go put him with 94 other guys. It’s definitely worth getting this guy in here.”
There’s no disputing Lott’s ability as a player. He played 10 games as a full-time defensive back last year for the Mountaineers and recorded 39 tackles and two interceptions.
He can play all four secondary positions and, under the watchful eye of his dad, who is now defensive coordinator at Johnson C. Smith, has developed the skill set and body type to be appealing to the next level.
"He's come in and looks good," Clark said. "I like his demeanor. He's not a big talker -- he just gets out there and gets the job done. Getting him is a huge plus for us."
Lott knows he has one last shot to make an impression. He wants to make it a good one.
“I feel like I had a pretty good season last year to get my name out there,” he said. “If I build on that this season and work to perfect my craft I can be an asset to Jacksonville State and get a lot of exposure here. I feel like they will push me and steer me in the direction I need to go.
“I have aspirations to go to the NFL. I feel like if I do everything I need to do here and stay focused, then everything else will take care of itself.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.