Friday Night Hero: A.L. Brown's J.P. Lott
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS — When your father was a four-year standout at Clemson and your big brother plays for Appalachian State, expectations — fair or not — are going to be through the roof.
A.L. Brown junior cornerback James Preston Lott — who answers to J.P. — is following the double-barreled legacy of his dad, James, a Wonder superstar in the 1980s, and his brilliant brother, Jamill, who quarterbacked Brown to the 2008 3AA state title game.
J.P. also has found an additional challenge placed on his table. His demanding father, who started more games on defense than anyone in Clemson history, knows exactly what needs to be done and exactly how to do it, and he happens to be J.P.’s position coach.
“It’s tough,” J.P. said with a sigh. “He’s tough on me in practice and he’s tough on me in games, but it pays off. As far as having a brother like Jamill, it just makes me try that much harder.”
Young Lott isn’t just trying, he’s excelling. While only a handful of sophomores normally spend all their time on the Brown varsity, he not only made the depth chart in 2010 — he started games.
“J.P. has got a lot of work to do, but he’s done pretty well,” James analyzed. “Coaching your child is tough, especially when you know he is good enough to become great and to realize that dream of a college degree. The important thing for me is separating the coach/player relationship from the father/son relationship. I try hard to do that.”
J.P. has speed and quickness and possesses excellent strength for a normal-sized guy (5-foot-9, 175). Of course, it’s not like you’d expect James Lott’s son to be slow, soft and clumsy.
“The athletic genes do run pretty heavy in that family,” head coach Mike Newsome said. “J.P. is extremely athletic. If we weren’t so talented on offense, he’d be playing both ways for us. Next year, it looks like we’ll do that with him. He’ll still be a fulltime cornerback, but we expect him to play slotback as well. When we rest him, it’ll be on offense.”
Versatility is a Lott family trait. James started at both corner and free safety at Clemson and was a gifted punt returner. Jamill was a kick returner, DB and running back at Brown before taking charge at QB as a senior. ASU employs him now as a wideout.
Defensive coordinator Noah Lyon said J.P.’s skills are critical for a Brown defense that has shut out four foes.
“When there’s something hard to do, a lot of times J.P. is the guy we ask to do it,” Lyon said. “We put our corners out there on an island a lot of times, but he handles it well and he understands he’s playing a tough position. He’s a heads-up player and he understands this game.”
J.P. had the most impactful game of his budding career on Friday when he had a hand in three Ledford turnovers in a 54-28 victory in the first round of the 3AA state playoffs. He recovered a fumble, forced a fumble on a kickoff and picked off a pass in the end zone.
“On the forced fumble I just punched the ball out of his arms when he broke out,” Lott explained. “That fumble I recovered, (safety) Kaleel Hollis forced it. Everybody saw it and a lot of us could’ve got it.”
But that pick in the end zone? Now that was special. Everyone agreed on that.
“I was just helping out our young safety,” Lott explained with a shrug. “I saw his man release, so I came off my man. I didn’t think I could get there, but I barely did.”
J.P.’s father, who intercepted seven passes as a Clemson Tiger, liked that pick. That means it was awesome.
“J.P. recognized a situation and made a very smart play right there,” James said. “I thought he had a solid game Friday. Not perfect, by any means, but he was solid.”