What Ronnie Lott’s Son Learned About Playing, Retiring, And Cutting Off Your Pinkie In The NFL

Advice of champions.

by Micah Abrams
Originally Published: 
Ryan Nece On His Father, NFL Hall Of Famer Ronnie Lott
FOX Sports

It’s one thing to go into the family business when your dad runs a laundromat; it’s a whole different ball of pigskin when the business in question is an NFL defense and the dad in question is a Hall Of Famer and arguably the best safety in history. But being Ronnie Lott’s son had its advantages for Ryan Nece, who played linebacker for 7 seasons in Tampa Bay and Detroit — and most of them came off the field. Nowadays, as the managing director of Next Play Capital, a venture-focused fund-to-fund, he helps guys like him do the most important thing he ever learned from his dad: Go from being a professional athlete to a regular guy gracefully (while remaining very rich).

On Playing Ball When Your Dad’s A Legend

“My dad’s approach was to remove himself from the equation altogether. He wasn’t involved from a coaching or advice standpoint; he tried to let me figure it out and let the coaches around me do their jobs. Part of the reason he did that was because he felt like, if he was too involved, the attention would shift to him, versus it being on me and my teammates. Most kids don’t have dads who are actively playing in the NFL. My dad had me when he was pretty young, so he was still a star and his spotlight was pretty big. As I got older, I understood how that could be tough for him.”

Flickr / Malabooboo

On Being Raised By One Of The ‘Toughest Men In Football’

“Tough might not be the right word, because it carries some negative connotation around it. He was very passionate and very driven and pursued excellence in every aspect of his life — and he expects everyone to think like that. That put a lot of pressure on us as kids, to try and rise to the occasion. My dad’s motto is, ‘Exhaust the moment.’ That’s a phenomenal motto to live by, but think about the last time you were exhausted. Now think about trying to do that in every single moment.”

On Being The Only Father/Son Duo To Win Super Bowls

“He likes to remind me that he has 4 and I have one.”

On What He Inherited From His Father’s Game

“There’s a switch that goes off inside of me when I play the game. Call it learned behavior or genetics — I think it’s a combination of both. There’s a level of tenacity, desire, hunger, and anger that I played the game with that I know my father played the game with. The other thing is work ethic. I wasn’t the fastest guy, I wasn’t the strongest guy, and I was probably undersized for my position. Watching my dad train and seeing how he operated and conducted himself was an interesting model for me as a kid. Wow — that’s what it takes to be, not just an NFL player, maybe one of the best of all time. If I can do a little bit of that, maybe I have a chance.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

On Successfully Transitioning Out Of The NFL

“When he was done playing, my dad was able to transition in a way that was a healthy example for all athletes, not just myself. It gave us hope that there are opportunities outside the game, if you work and spend time creating proper relationships and try to become an expert in a new field. He was adamant while I was playing about constantly educating myself, which is why I took classes at Harvard and Stanford and spent time understanding his businesses in the off-season. Having someone who didn’t just talk about it, but also walked it, and constantly reminding myself that you never know when that window is going to close — in the back of my mind, I always thought of myself as being on thin ice. The clock would strike 12 and I would turn back into a normal human being and no longer be an NFL player. So, I was always thinking about what’s next.”

“My dad’s motto is, ‘Exhaust the moment.’ That’s a phenomenal motto to live by, but think about the last time you were exhausted. Now think about trying to do that in every single moment.”

On That Time His Dad Cut Off His Pinkie To Keep Playing

“I think he struggles with it, because people promote him and it’s a reflection of him and who he was. He’ll tell you that it had nothing to do with him. It had nothing to do with his own glory and it had a lot to do with the team’s glory. It was a sacrifice for the team more than it was for himself, so he shifts the spotlight back to the team, what they were able to accomplish.”

On How He’ll Raise His Own Kid

“The biggest thing is to lead by example, carrying yourself in a way that demonstrates your pursuit of excellence. Live by a certain moral compass that guides you. My father has a lot of faith and he’s a very selfless person when it comes to helping others. I want to live that in my own life and be an example for my kid, so they see a leader, someone they respect and someone who’s willing to do whatever it takes to help them succeed.”

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