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A redshirt freshman, Nece is thrilled to be a Bruin. ``I've had a lot of people ask me how I could let Ryan go to UCLA,'' said Lott, the former San Francisco 49ers great who played for the Trojans. He wasn't recruited by USC, and going to UCLA was his decision. It was his choice.'' And the Bruins are, well, thrilled.
His mother, Cathy Thomas, is thrilled he's a Bruin, and his father, Ronnie Lott, is thrilled he's a Bruin. Nece started his career as a safety - just like dad - then stunned his parents by switching to linebacker last spring.
``But I didn't want to be one of those fathers who said, `Why aren't you recruiting my son? ``One week before signing day, I called one of their assistants and said, `Hey, are you guys looking at him? The next thing I knew, he signed with UCLA, and I thought that was great.'' Nece's switch from safety to linebacker - it was UCLA's suggestion - was not as well received by either parent, especially Cathy. Once he was comfortable, we were all fine with it.'' The Bruins didn't think Nece had the speed to play safety.
He didn't have the size to play inside linebacker, either, but in their system he is protected by defensive linemen and given room to roam.
He does not think of Thomas as a stepfather but a father, and he's close to Lott, who lives in San Francisco but visits Nece on Tuesdays when he's in town to tape ``Hardcore Football'' for Fox Sports Net. We talk to each other more like men.'' The constant in Nece's life, though, is Cathy.He studies film each Sunday and eliminates all distractions once he steps on the bus Friday afternoon.``I learned from my dad that the game has got to be mental,'' he said. I watched all those guys (the 49ers) when I was young and asked myself what made them great.``(Freshman) Robert Thomas is a talented player and he's having a hard time getting on the field because Ryan's playing so well.'' Nece's choice of college and position differ from the expected path, from Lott's path, but they aren't surprising.
Despite having a famous father - ``In high school, people knew me by who my dad was'' he said - he's very much his mother's son. While he was winning Super Bowls in San Francisco, she was rearing Ryan in San Bernardino, instilling her values and faith and giving him her maiden name.She was there during the strange recruiting process and she emphasized books over blitzes. While he was going to Super Bowl games, she was the one saying, `You've got to be a student.' ``She did a tremendous job and he was also exposed to a lot of good people, like Joe (Montana) and Jerry (Rice).