In 1999, Taqouri Lott, also known as Cory, transferred out of the Monroe School District and into Monticello before eighth grade began. He would go on to star for the Ponies in football, basketball, baseball and track as a freshman and sophomore, earning multiple all-conference and all-area honors.
Before his junior year, however, he transferred again — leaving behind a budding legacy and moving to Rochester, Minnesota.
At John Marshall High School, Taqouri showed off his skills early. A 6-feet, 3-inch tall guard, his skill around the court helped free up 6-11 teammate Longar Longar, who would go on to play four years at Oklahoma University before briefly becoming teammates with Kevin Durant with the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA. The school made it to the Minnesota state tournament that year (2003), though Taqouri watched from the sidelines after he tore his ACL prior to the tournament run. JMHS went on to lose to Minneapolis North, led by star guard Kamron Taylor, who would later spend four years making a name for himself as a Wisconsin Badger.
As a senior the next year, Taqouri took over more of a leadership role and was an all-state player, earning Fabulous 40 recognition.
I’ve learned many lessons throughout life but I’d have to say life is a 50/50 thing — 50% of life is completely out of your control but the other 50% is about what you do with the opportunities you get.Taqouri Lott
“I know I had 2,000 points between both schools,” said Taqouri, a 2004 graduate that came up just shy of the 1,000-mark at Monticello. As a sophomore with the Ponies, he finished top-10 in southern Wisconsin for scoring and helped lead the team to sectionals.
He earned a scholarship to play hoops at the University of North Dakota. After one year with the Fighting Sioux, now known as the Fighting Hawks, he transferred back to Rochester to play with the local junior college team, earning regional tournament MVP honors and was the Elite 8 MVP after hitting a last-second 3 to win the game.
He then finished his bachelor’s degree at UW-Eau Claire and went on to play five years of semi-pro football in western Wisconsin, earning enough recognition to be rated as a prospective professional player and was invited to the 2011 regional combine in Naperville, Illinois.
Lott’s family has football in its blood. Second cousin Ronnie Lott was a star defender for the San Francisco 49ers during the 1980s, winning multiple Super Bowls and was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. Two other cousins made names for themselves in the last decade as well — first-cousin Jordan Reed became a prolific tight end for six seasons in Washington, while Jordan’s older brother David Reed played four years for Baltimore and Indianapolis and won a Super Bowl.
“When we were younger, (Jordan) would cry when we played football at family gatherings, because we didn’t really let him play,” Taqouri said. Jordan eventually grew into his body — 6-2 and more than 240 pounds. In college, he backed up Tim Tebow as a quarterback at Florida before switching to tight end, and made more money than any of his family members in the NFL. His last contract, signed in 2017, set him up to make more than $46 million by 2022.
“We don’t talk (trash) to him anymore,” Taqouri said.
While watching his cousins reach the pinnacle of the game he loves so much, for Taqouri, it wasn’t meant to be.
“I’ve learned many lessons throughout life but I’d have to say life is a 50/50 thing — 50% of life is completely out of your control but the other 50% is about what you do with the opportunities you get,” he said. “If you don’t take advantage of those windows of opportunity, they will pass you by and you’ll never have a shot again — so make the most of the moments you do get.”
Taqouri decided to mix his skills together in other ways to take care of himself and his three children — Arianna, 10, Raeya, 9, and Ayden, 3. With a degree in business management and a life-long affinity to be in peak physical condition, Taqouri eventually earned certification to become a personal trainer.
I’ve always loved people and get so much joy in helping them adjust with different lifestyle challenges. If I can guide you to prolong your life and give you more memories, I’ll take that as a win any day of the week.Taqouri Lott
After moving to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 2014, Taqouri worked for a time at Planet Fitness, and now runs his own gym called T Squad. He’s also an entrepreneur, Realtor and has been involved with youth mentorships.
“After I was done with my path to the NFL as a pro prospect, I wanted to focus on my body after sports, as well as helping others obtain specific goals. With all the health issues my family’s gone through, I made it my mission to find a solution to poor health and I’ve never looked back,” he said. “I’ve always loved people and get so much joy in helping them adjust with different lifestyle challenges. If I can guide you to prolong your life and give you more memories, I’ll take that as a win any day of the week.”
While he’s got his mind set on the future, he said he also can’t help but think about the past from time to time. All these years later, Taqouri said he feels like he let down his close group of friends in Monroe by leaving, even though he was just 14 at the time.
“I have many ‘what if’ moments, but I mainly think about what would have happened if I would have not moved to Minnesota from Monticello — let alone when I transferred from Monroe to Monticello,” Taqouri said.
He said he and his mother, Christine Hall, struggled keeping the bills paid when he was growing up.
“Not many people know this, but our water was shut off a few times,” he said. Sometimes when his mother had to go into work early in the morning while he was in middle school, she’d drop him off on the Square in Monroe at 5 a.m. Taqouri said he always ended up finding himself inside of Ruf’s Confectionery, reading comics and magazines and occasionally enjoying a chocolate shake with the owner.
“I think he kind of understood what was going on and why I was there,” he said. “He never asked me about it, and I don’t even know if the store was even open yet that early in the morning.”
Understanding the struggles of living paycheck to paycheck, Taqouri said that his life goals are pretty simple, and that he has two, with the first to leave a legacy behind him. “I wanted to play professional sports. It still bothers me to this day that I didn’t make it. I wanted to leave a legacy for people to be proud of me. Ultimately in life, I just want to accomplish what I can.”
The second is for his children: Generational wealth. “I struggled with that growing up, and I don’t want them to deal with that. The rich can go broke, but generational wealth is a different thing. You want to make your money work for you, and not the other way around.”
While growing up in Green County, Taqouri also found himself in a unique roll — he was one of the few biracial students in the area at the dawn of the 21st century.
“I didn’t really see it at first when I was younger. I didn’t really understand it that much — I didn’t see color,” he said. “My mom did, though. She could be in the store with me and someone would ask her if I was adopted, and she’d snap right back at them.”
Taqouri said he was quiet a lot about the racial biases he faced growing up — including from inside his own family.
“My mom was scapegoated in her family. I was the oldest grandchild, and my grandpa didn’t like how my mom met my dad (Wayne Lott) and made me, a biracial kid. He grew up in a different time and found it hard to accept that,” he said. “My grandpa and I weren’t very close until his last days, though I always knew that he loved me.”
I wanted to play professional sports. It still bothers me to this day that I didn’t make it. I wanted to leave a legacy for people to be proud of me. Ultimately in life, I just want to accomplish what I can.Taqouri Lott
Sometimes at basketball games at Monticello, Taqouri would hear racist comments from individuals in the crowd, including some adults. Occasionally, even close friends would make a comment or joke, though Taqouri said he took that as more “someone trying to get a rise out of me.” He said that the older he got, the more he became aware that racial tension was a very real thing.
“My father’s world was totally different than my mother’s, and now I can see that,” Taqouri said. “I’m very nervous when I drive, or when I see cops.”
Taqouri doesn’t make it back up to Green County — or even Wisconsin — as often as he would like. He had to dodge a hurricane a few years ago, and a friend of his took him to Lambeau Field in Green Bay for a Packers-Bears game. “The Bears are my team, so you know I couldn’t turn that down,” he said.
He had planned on coming to Cheese Days in September, until the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to be pushed back a year. However, he said that the chance to come back to the celebration in back-to-back years in 2021 and 2022 is already penciled into his calendar.
“Oh, I will most definitely be back for some cheese curds and beer. We’ll get the guys together again and take a few trips down memory lane,” he said. “It’s been a long time.”