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The Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
RIALTO — It was 2009 when Eisenhower High School's Eagle Stadium was first renamed Ronnie Lott Stadium after the 1977 graduate who went on to become a Hall of Fame football player, playing primarily for the San Francisco 49ers.
But when the new Ronnie Lott Stadium had its ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, a more appropriate stadium to be associated with a Hall of Famer was unveiled.
The ceremony was held at the stadium, which includes artificial turf, all-weather track and new bleachers. It was held in front of the Eisenhower student body, many local school and city leaders as well as Lott and his family.
"I'm very thankful for being here today," Lott said. "This is an incredible honor. I want to thank all of you folks who put this together."
Lott never played in the original stadium, and he referenced a yearbook picture (that was on display at a recep
tion in the gym afterwards) of Lott with a shovel at what appeared to be a groundbreaking ceremony.
He said his Eisenhower family was never far from his mind.
"When I was in L.A., or playing up in Northern California, I had you in mind," Lott said. "I wanted to make sure that I played for you, that I did it the right way."
He thanked many people who helped him along the way, including former teammates, coaches and his family.
"Probably the greatest thing, being in this environment, was coming home every day," he said. "Every day, I'm thankful I have a chance to model myself after my mom and dad."
He also announced that he and his wife were offering a $1,000 scholarship annually to a senior Eisenhower athlete.
It was a surprise to most of those in attendance, including Athletic Director Monique Marquez.
"That was a great surprise," she said. "If other people knew about it, they didn't tell me."
After announcing the scholarship, Lott said: "What you realize in life is that one of you (is)going to be here. You're going to be standing up on this stage. One of you (is)going to have that responsibility to make sure that you give back. And I know for a fact, that one of you (is)going to change the world."
Lott, who celebrated his 59th birthday Tuesday, finished his playing career before any of the current students were born. The Eisenhower staff wanted to make sure students knew the history of Lott, whose 49ers jersey hangs in the Eisenhower administration offices.
"We gave them some history on him because most of them don't know," Marquez said.
Lott went to USC before he was a first-round draft pick by the 49ers in 1981. He first played cornerback, then later switched to safety, and according to Wikipedia, he was one of five players who played on all four 49ers Super Bowl Championship teams in the 1980s. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000 and was also named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team.
Marquez, an Eisenhower graduate herself, sad Lott is a lot like other Eisenhower graduates in one regard.
"It's a very close group," she said. "They want to come back and be part of Eisenhower."
The ceremony continued in the gym, without the students, where a luncheon was held and Lott was presented with several awards by local leaders.
The stadium is new, but Thursday wasn't the first time it was used. Marquez said two track and field meets were held there. Eisenhower teams had also practiced on the field before the bleachers were finished, she said.
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