Anthony Lotti’s recruitment started with a direct message on Twitter and ended with the senior punter excitedly accepting a scholarship offer to play for the University of Wisconsin.
It’s a decision that allowed his father, West Hall coach Tony Lotti, to breathe a big sigh of relief. As a veteran football coach of 17 years at three schools, Tony has seen the college recruitment process play out in front of him time after time — but this situation was unique.
“This one was different for me,” said the coach. “I’ve dealt with recruiting, and I always tried to see it from a parental standpoint, but with my own son, within my household, seeing the ups and downs of it ... I won’t lie to you ... I’m glad it’s over.”
Anthony, a first team all-state selection last season, said he was “thrilled” to make his commitment before his final year at West Hall so he can fully focus on defending his team’s Region 7-AAA title. The Spartans romped to their first-ever region title in 2014, with Lotti averaging 45.2 yards per punt.
Following his breakout year, the first that he had been able to focus solely on punting duties, Lotti said he started getting messages from college coaches on Twitter who were hoping he’d come out for summer camps. For many specialists, according to Anthony, coaches are hesitant to offer scholarships until they can see punters perform on the field.
“The competition phase was all about focus,” said Anthony, who competed against roughly 100 other punters at a Boston College showcase. “(Eagles) coach (Steve) Addazio was running straight at you, so just imagine you’re standing out in a big stadium by yourself and six major college coaches are trying to block you. It’s about how you can keep your focus under high pressure.”
Pressure, as luck would have it, is where Lotti thrives. The rising senior admitted that he used to underperform during West Hall practices, but found his center during games.
He was able to pin opponents back inside their own 20-yard line six times last season in the limited number of times the team was forced to punt the ball away. The Spartans (9-2) blew out their opponents by an average of 22 points per game before falling in the first round of the state playoffs to Oconee County.
For many of his games, and much of his camp experience, Lotti does not recall many details about the plays he’s been involved in.
His muscle memory tends to take over when he punts the ball away.
“It’s a really cool feeling,” he said. “Your body just takes over and your training means you know what to do.”
Following an equally intensive summer camp this June in Madison, Wis., the Badgers coaching staff offered him a scholarship, and Anthony quickly accepted. Both father and son had all the time in the world to mull it over — the camp and meeting lasted so long that they had to re-book their evening flight back to Atlanta for the following morning.
Tony called his son’s commitment a “blessing.” Lotti, a former All-American punter at Division II Tennessee-Wesleyan University in Athens, Tenn., once attended training camp for the New England Patriots back in 1990. After his playing career ended, Tony spent stints as an assistant coach at Union Grove High and Woodland High before joining West Hall in late 2011.
As the Lotti family is “all in” on West Hall football, so too are they now on Wisconsin, where Coach Lotti said he’ll be planning trips next year to see Anthony play at Camp Randall Stadium, just hours after he finishes up games at Spartan Field.
Until then, he’ll be looking forward to one last year of practices and preparation with his college-bound son.
“These four years will always be special,” said the coach. “It’s like having every day be ‘Take-Your-Son-To-Work Day.’ By the end of his time here, he’ll know how much his dad cares about him. Obviously, I want him to have a great senior season, but after that, we’ll be jumping around in Wisconsin on Saturdays.”