Before some of his high school football games, Riley Gaddis has watched video clips of Ronnie Lott, one of his NFL favorite players, deliver monster hits.
Gaddis says he got the idea from a coach, Kirk Norton, during freshman football, when the Newport Harbor High standout played safety. Just watching Lott, inspired and motivated Gaddis.
Gaddis met Lott Wednesday afternoon, and you can say it was a meaningful encounter. It was so relevant that Lott singled out Gaddis during the Hall of Famer's poignant speech at the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list luncheon at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach.
Lott told Gaddis to stand up and Lott talked about what he told the Sailors' football player during their one-on-one meeting just before the luncheon.
"Young man," Lott said in front of everyone. "You have a great opportunity."
Lott continued to speak about opportunity and spoke like part preacher, part coach with words that resulted in a standing ovation.
Gaddis stood too, motivated to fulfill his potential, as Lott advised.
"[Lott] treats every person like they're an important individual," said Gaddis, who helped the Sailors to a remarkable run to the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division title game in the fall. "Every single person he meets he wants to know them personally. He sees value in each person. He saw value in me. He acknowledged it in front of everybody."
Gaddis, a linebacker/running back/receiver, will be a senior this fall. He said he was, "pumped up," to hear Lott's message.
Gaddis, a Sunset League first-team selection, also left an impression on Lott.
"Riley is a young man that is finding his way and finding his path," Lott said after the luncheon. "He's a young man that's been adopted by a family and he knows that there are things he wants to do in his life. It's not necessarily playing football. It's just making sure he's maximizing who he is. And that's what I'm hoping we have the opportunity to do with this community of people. That's the message I want to give him. All of us, we have that responsibility to make sure we take care of that young man."
Sarkisian, who also spoke about his Trojans, ended with a story about Lott.
Sarkisian said he saw Lott, during the legendary safety's 14th season in the NFL, at the New York Jets' training camp. After practice, when several players left for the locker room, Lott stayed and started punching at a 100-pound bag.
Sarkisian smacked his fist to provide more emphasis and said that other younger players followed Lott and hit the bag too because they saw what it took to become great.
Lott then followed and spoke in a fiery tone.
"I got fired up, hearing about that bag," said Lott, who paced in front of the podium, speaking without the microphone. "There are people in this room who are hitting the bag in their community. How can you not get fired up? How can you not want to play this game of life and play it the right way? It's about the responsibility to serve others. Don't ever stop."
Lott and the trophy's board members, who include Balboa Island residents Terry Donahue and Mike White and chairman John Hamilton of Newport Beach, were united in the belief that the special defensive player award continues to gain more notoriety as it enters its 11th year.
The annual watch list luncheon was an announcement for the 42 players vying for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, an award that honors the player who has the biggest impact on and off the field.
IMPACT is an acronym for Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity.
The luncheon also highlighted the group's charitable endeavors, including the Legacy Leadership Project and Miracles for Kids.
The Legacy Leadership Project is a Pro Football Hall of Fame ambassador program that matches Hall of Famers with Orange County high school student-athletes for a year of mentorship during their senior seasons and includes a life-changing week in Canton, Ohio for the induction festivities.
Tre Madden, a USC running back and former Mission Viejo star, was a Legacy Leadership Project success story mentioned at the luncheon.
Miracles for Kids is an Orange County-based nonprofit that's in its second year partnering with the IMPACT Foundation. Miracles for Kids provides financial aid and other support to low-income families with children battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
Donahue also spoke about the IMPACT Foundation and its help with making the California Showcase a success recently.
The California Showcase, a one-day football camp for high school seniors hoping to catch on to play college football at a non-NCAA Division I program, took place at the Stub Hub Center in Carson in February.
Donahue said the event improved in its second year, as more than 100 players landed an average of a $17,000 scholarship to play college football. That's more than double the number of what resulted in the first year.
This year's showcase, which is free to the players and the college coaches/scouts, featured 570 players and 49 universities.
Gaddis doesn't really plan to attend the California Showcase. He wants to fulfill his potential.
He said he enjoyed the luncheon Wednesday.
He also said he's a, "Trojan at heart." He solidified that with his special encounter with Lott.
The Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List
The winner will be announced at the annual Lott IMPACT Trophy Banquet Dec. 14 at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach
(player bios can be seen at http://lottimpacttrophy.org/2014-watch-list/)
Geoffrey Bacon, DB, Army
Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
Kelby Brown, LB, Duke
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Sam Carter, S, TCU
Henry Coley, LB, Virginia
Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Corey Cooper, S, Nebraska
Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
Michael Doctor, LB, Oregon State
Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Collin Ellis, LB, Northwestern
Cole Farrand, LB, Maryland
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor
Vernon Hargreaves, DB, Florida
David Helton, LB, Duke
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Hau'oli Kikaha, DE, Washington
Ben Kline, LB, Penn State
Cameron Lynch, LB, Syracuse
Wayne Lyons, CB, Stanford
Jalen Mills, CB, LSU
Jonathon Mincy, CB, Auburn
Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State
Cory Morrissey, DE, Iowa State
Hayes Pullard, LB, USC
Cedric Reed, DE, Texas
Jordan Richards, S, Stanford
Deterrian Shackelford, LB, Ole Miss
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Derron Smith, S, Fresno State
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
Jared Tevis, S, Arizona
Leonard Williams, DT, USC
Ramik Wilson, LB, Georgia