The mood was tempered by the recent deaths of Rich Saul and Junior Seau.
Saul, who played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1970 to 1981 and was a six-time Pro Bowler, died from leukemia on April 15 at the age of 64 after an almost ten-year battle with the disease. His Rams jersey was enclosed in glass and hung at the front of the room while his wife, Nancy, listened to retired Rams players Doug Smith and Jackie Slater pay tribute to Saul.
"Jesus just took him over the goal line," Smith said.
Ronnie Lott talked about Junior Seau, still emotional over his death. Seau played for most of his career with the San Diego Chargers and was named an All-Pro linebacker for ten consecutive years (1991-2000). Seau died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on May 2 at the age of 43.
Notable coaches in attendance at the luncheon included Mike White (Cal, Illinois and Oakland Raiders), Terry Donahue (UCLA) and John Robinson (USC, UNLV and Los Angeles Rams).
One of the lighter moments at the luncheon came when Robinson and Donahue were asked to come up to the podium and talk about rivalry games. Robinson was asked about the first time he coached USC against Terry Donahue’s Bruins.
"I don’t remember a lot, but I remember the good guys won," Robinson quipped.
Donahue returned the ribbing with a volley of his own by referring to USC as "Southern Cal" — the school strongly encourages the use of that moniker.
Quarterbacks Jim Everett and Steve Beuerlein also addressed the luncheon crowd and Everett started it off by tossing a compliment toward the retired defensive back Lott.
"I had to come here because I know I’ve completed more balls to you than just about anybody," Everett said with a smile.
Retired quarterback Jim Hardy (USC, Los Angeles Rams) was also in attendance. The 89-year-old is best known for becoming the second NFL quarterback to ever throw for over 400 yards in one game (1948) in a loss to the Chicago Cardinals as well as throwing an NFL-record eight interceptions in a 1950 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Among the former football players in attendance were Roosevelt "Rosie" Greer, Kermit Washington, Sam "Bam" Cunningham and Mike Salmon.
By conference, the Big Ten had the most names on the watch list with nine. The Pac-12 had eight, the Big 12 and the ACC had seven each and the SEC had five. All four independents (Army, BYU, Navy and Notre Dame) had one each and two Mountain West teams (Boise State and Wyoming) had one each.
Five schools had two watch listers; Florida State, Iowa State, LSU, Texas and Wisconsin. Seven players are Lott IMPACT Trophy returnees from 2011 and three of them were either a quarterfinalist (T.J. McDonald, USC), semifinalist (Broderick Brown, Oklahoma State) or a finalist (Manti Te’o, Notre Dame).
The Ninth Annual Lott IMPACT Trophy Black-tie Dinner will be held on Dec. 9 at the Pacific Club. Former Secretary of State and Stanford Provost Condoleeza Rice is the scheduled keynote speaker while FOXSports will broadcast the event live.
The Lott IMPACT Trophy, named after Lott, is an annual award presented to college football’s Defensive Player of the Year who best exemplifies integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.
Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly won in 2011.