SAN JOSE -- Eric Reid's agent called him not long ago offering to connect him with a charity that gives scholarships to South Bay high school students.
That alone was enough to appeal to the 49ers free safety. But there was one other thing.
"And then he mentioned Ronnie Lott,'' Reid said. "So I said, 'Of course.'"
That's how two generations of 49ers defensive backs wound up spending Friday morning helping to hand out over $15,000 to college-bound students who had overcome adversity. Lott, Reid and soccer star Brandi Chastain were among the stars at the REACH Youth Scholarship awards breakfast at the San Jose Marriott.
Reid, the 49ers' first-round pick out of LSU last year, still looked a little in awe of Lott's presence. He said that shortly after he was drafted last season he traveled to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where he posed for photos while standing next to Lott's bronze bust.
These days, he's proud to know the real thing, not the statue. Reid said the two talked occasionally during his rookie season, with Lott counseling the defensive back on his tackling technique after Reid's two early season concussions. "(Lott) gave me some pointers as to how to stay safe, being the huge hitter that he was,'' he said.
Now, Reid is trying to follow in Lott's footsteps when it comes to philanthropy. He recalled going to a number of youth-oriented camps while growing up in Louisiana and vowed that "if I was blessed enough to be able to play and pursue my dreams, then I would do my part in giving back to the community."
Lott and Chastain served as the honorary chairpersons for they event, handing out awards from the San Jose Sports Authority ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Winning students were chosen based on essays that detailed how playing sports helped them overcome adversity.
Lott spent a lot of time before the event chatting with Joshua Toch, the Live Oak High School senior who captured the top prize. Toch was born with cerebral palsy. Doctors warned his parents that even if he survived past age 1, he'd likely never walk on his own.
Toch, now 18, is headed to Cal with a 4.1 grade-point average. The kid who wasn't expected to walk grew up to run for the Live Oak cross country team. He also started an anti-bullying nonprofit organization called "Mind Before Mouth."
"That's what I love about this morning. Every year, we see all these kids who make us realize, 'Hey, I'm not really maximizing my life,'' Lott said. "Joshua taught me today a simple dream: He can connect with people because he tries. He never gave up. He just found another way."
Other top winners were Katelyn Mollahan (Saratoga), Brian Lydon (Saratoga), Jairo Bustos (Mt. Pleasant), Kimi Beasley (Willow Glen), Marco Contreras (Andrew Hill High), Lupe Jimenez (Gilroy) an Sergio Valencia (Willow Glen).