Born: February 9, 1969
Todd Lyght was an All-American for Lou Holtz at Notre Dame, and a national champion.
In the NFL, Lyght was an All-Pro and Pro-Bowl selection over his 12 seasons. He helped lead the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV championship.
His football legacy is more than secure. But did we almost have Todd Lyght… the swimmer?!?
“The very first sport that I learned and competed in was swimming,” he said. “Both of my siblings were outstanding swimmers and were both All Americans in high school and college. They were my role models.”
But Lyght eventually found football, and he was hooked.
“Around 12 years old, I knew that my future was in football,” Lyght said. “My love for the game and the camaraderie which it brought really appealed to me, along with all of the physical aspects and intelligence it took to be successful.”
And successful he was. That success is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Lyght as a member of its Class of 2023.
Lyght was like most kids growing up in the 1970s. He played multiple sports, most notably basketball, baseball, and soccer. But once he found football, it became his focus.
“Watching the Pittsburgh Steelers win four Super Bowls solidified my new true love and from then on all of my sports focus was on the football field,” he said.
At Powers Catholic in Flint, Mich., Lyght was a standout receiver. He grew up idolizing former Steelers star Lynn Swann and wanted to follow in his footsteps. But Holtz had other ideas.
“I was recruited as an athlete, but I really wanted to play offense,” he said. “When I arrived on campus Coach Holtz had other plans. He told me if I moved to the defensive side of the ball I would play as a true freshman and long term it would greatly benefit me and my football career.”
Not surprisingly, Holtz was right. Lyght appeared in all 11 games as a freshman and began cementing himself as one of the top defensive backs in the country.
“The transition was smooth and once I took the field as a defender I never looked back,” Lyght said.
Aside from the position change, Holtz made a tremendous impact on Lyght.
“His ability to make everyone understand that in order for us as a team to achieve greatness, we would all have to be selfless and put the team first,” Lyght said. “He had a special way of making sure all the best 11 players were on the field and getting us to think, act and move as an elite unit. His attention to detail in preparation always gave us the best chance to be successful on game day and he made us as tough as they come.”
The 1988 National Championship game with West Virginia is still fresh in Lyght’s memory.
“As always we took pride in our bowl preparation and by the time game time rolled around, we were firing on all cylinders,” Lyght said. “Defensively we punished West Virginia and by the end of the third quarter our physicality took a heavy toll on the Mountaineers.”
Notre Dame defeated West Virginia, 34-21, in the Fiesta Bowl, capping a perfect 12-0 season.
Two years later, Lyght was on his way to the NFL.
The then-Los Angeles Rams selected Lyght fifth overall. Injuries hampered Lyght over the first three years of his career, as he appeared in just 33 games. But in 1994, Lyght broke out, starting all 16 games for the Rams. It would be nine years before he missed another game.
Lyght and the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995. Two years later Missouri Sports Legend Dick Vermeil (MSHOF 2001) was coaxed out of the broadcast booth and back to the sidelines, and two years after that, the Rams and “The Greatest Show on Turf” were on top of the football world.
“Playing for the Rams and being a member of ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ was an honor and a blessing,” Lyght said. “A lot of credit has to be given to Dick Vermeil and the entire Rams staff for leading us but also having the courage to let the players on the field make in-game adjustments on the fly to produce elite championship football.”
Despite all the achievements, and accolades and championships, Lyght was a bit surprised to get the call from the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
“The recognition validates all of my dedication, hard work and my contribution to bringing home St. Louis’s first and only Super Bowl Championship,” Lyght said.