Three-star defensive tackle J.J. Lollar has always been close to his mother, Lolita, who raised him and his sister, Katie, on her own. Lolita never wanted her son to miss out on activities with no father figure in his life so she broke through the barriers. J.J.'s mother taught him almost everything he knows starting with how to shoot a gun, drive a car and even play sports.
"I've taken him hunting since he was two," Lolita said. "[J.J.'s grandfather] built me a stand. I'm not a man, but I wanted him to grow up and experience those things. I taught him how to shoot his gun. I taught him how to drive. I wanted to make sure that they didn't miss out on anything. I coached everything from soccer to basketball to little league t-ball until seventh grade."
There's no doubt that the sacrifices Lolita made for her son were noticed. J.J said his relationship with his mother is special -- so special that he recently changed his last name from Bynum to Lollar to honor her.
"Growing up throughout my life, my mom was the only person I had to influence me," J.J. said. "I thought it was necessary to honor my mom with her name instead of my father's name. My mom is my best friend. If anything ever happens to me, she's the first person I tell. I can't really ever hide anything from my mom because she's the type of person who could figure it out. Whenever I have a problem she's there to face it with me, so I don't have to face it on my own."
That's why when J.J. turned 18, he finally made the change. He had wanted to change his name since he was 12 but had waited at of his mom's request. Lolita said she asked J.J. to wait until he was an adult to make the change, but she trusted he was ready when he turned 18.
"He's always wanted to get his name changed," Lolita said. "I told him, ‘I want you to be responsible and make that decision yourself.'"
In December, two weeks after his 18th birthday, Lolita approved of her son's wishes. After working with a judge for nearly a month, J.J.'s father also gave his approval of the change to speed up the process.
"It was pretty exciting when it finally happened," J.J. said. "I got a phone call from my mom when I was in class. She doesn't call me in school so I knew it was important. As soon as she let me know, I left school and we had lunch to celebrate. After everything we've been through, it's good to know that people will know me by my mom."
J.J., who attends A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, Texas, recently signed his letter of intent to play football at Texas Tech. The talented prospect is looking forward to joining the Red Raiders next season and especially wearing his mom's last name on the back of his jersey.
"I'm excited to know that when I'm on TV playing, everyone will be able to see me and think of my mom as well," J.J. said. "My jersey will be a reminder of where I came from and who I really am. I'm excited for everything about Texas Tech. It's a big blessing to be able to take my skill to a whole new level. It's good to know that even though I'm going to be on my own, I'll still have my support system back here in College Station. It's always been our biggest dream for me to play college ball. The only thing we can really do is say thank you to God."
Even though they will be in different cities, J.J.'s biggest fan will be cheering him on back at home and she's confident that their close relationship will continue even when he's away.
"I'm going to miss him greatly when he moves to Lubbock," Lolita said. "I've been crying since he changed his name. I'm so grateful that he wanted to do it for me. It makes me very proud of him. I'm going to be very happy the first time I see ‘Lollar' on the back of his jersey. He's got this huge heart. He tries to be tough and strong on the outside, but on the inside he's very sensitive to our family's needs. There's a not a lot that we don't do together."
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