Lott Trophy winner to be unveiled Sunday, but impact of award affects many throughout the year. – Orange County Register

It might not have the long tradition of Pasadena and the Rose Bowl, or the panache and glamour of the Heisman Trophy in New York City, but the Lott IMPACT Trophy is purely Newport Beach.

Founded by mostly USC alumni and longtime Newport residents, the award to honor the best defensive player in college football is a distinction this town can call all of its own.

“We fly (the four finalists) out here and they have a great time, because we really treat them well and roll out the red carpet,” said Lott Trophy Director Jeff Bitetti, who represents the Pacific Club Foundation that supports and hosts the 14th annual CBS-televised event at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10 at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach.

“Character is a key component in our award,” Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation Board Chairman John Hamilton said. “It is our honor to recognize these players who represent their team, their university and their community with such passion and dedication.”

I am proud that all four of my selections for this year’s Lott Trophy have been named as a finalist and invited to attend the banquet: Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama, Josey Jewell of Iowa, Micah Kiser of Virginia and Harrison Phillips of Stanford.

One of the benefits of the Lott Trophy is the annual California Showcase, which allows high school football seniors who are not Division I signees or recruits an opportunity to present their case in front of several Division II, Division III and NAIA coaches.

Playing a collegiate sport at a level besides Division 1 is one of the best investments a student-athlete can make, based on many factors, such as conditioning and the experience of playing sports in college.

We can make a strong case for the advantages of physical fitness. But what I see are too many well-qualified athletes not pursuing sports in college because they want to attend college at a Division 1 school and their skills perhaps do not allow them to compete at the highest collegiate level.

That’s where Division II, Division III and NAIA schools, and community colleges, come into play. We hear that choosing a college is the first big decision made in the life of a high school student, and continuing to play sports in college is a great decision.

The chances increase of playing collegiate football for hundreds of high school seniors when they’re exposed to a showcase created by the Lott Trophy.

The free one-day, nonprofit event, which will be held Feb. 24 at the Orange County Great Park in…

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