ATLANTA (Jan 4, 2023) – Tony Lotti of Apalachee High School has been named the Atlanta Falcons 2022 High School Coach of the Year and will serve as the Falcons nominee for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award.
The award is given to the high school head coach that represents integrity, leadership, perseverance, dedication to the community, commitment to player protection and on-field success.
Following the 2021 season in which Lotti led Apalachee to its first postseason appearance in 12 years and was named the Region 8-AAAAA Coach of the Year, he began experiencing severe headaches and fatigue. Near the start of spring practice in 2022, the symptoms continued, and an MRI revealed that Lotti had multiple brain tumors. He was taken to the University of North Carolina Medical Center to undergo surgery. Following his operation, Lotti was taken to the intensive care unit after being diagnosed with Acute Hyponatremia, which results in rapidly declining sodium levels and can lead to brain swelling.
With the support of his family, team and community, Lotti's sodium levels gradually stabilized, and the recovery process began. Lotti set a goal to return to Apalachee's sideline by the time his team took the field in the fall and ultimately received clearance to do so.
Unable to afford any contact to his head due to the nature of the surgery, Lotti – in what he refers to as a "Happy Gilmore moment" – elected to wear a hockey helmet on the sideline this season. In a show of gratitude to everyone who helped him recover and return to coaching, he decorated the helmet with the names of the surgeons that saved his life and other members of his support systems.
As the Atlanta Falcons 2022 Coach of the Year, Lotti will serve as the Falcons honorary captain for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay.