MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sit with Frank Ragnow and he is reflective, remembering how after his freshman year in high school he started to reach out to college football coaches.
“I had always had the thought process that I wanted to play … at the college level,” Frank said. “I remember after my freshman year of high school I started emailing. I emailed every coach, St. Cloud, like everyone locally, UMN.”
He grew big, and big colleges wanted him. He made a big decision in his senior year. With Mom and Dad by his side at Chanhassen High School, he announced that he had signed with the University of Arkansas.
He left for Fayetteville, Arkansas with a determination to prove he belonged.
“I went down there with a chip on my shoulder because there were some, I mean, I was a three-star, four-star kid, but there were some other kids that were five stars that were supposed to be the saviors and everyone was talking about it,” Frank said. “So I kind of put a chip on my shoulder, and Coach Pittman was always telling me, ‘Hey, I think you can help us out early.’”
He made a name as a Razorback and made his family proud.
“When he was in high school, I always had the other three [kids] I was so busy with, and so he was just a football player,” said Marty Ragnow, Frank’s mother. “But then as he got into college and started doing really well, it’s super exciting to watch and fun to be in the stands.”
While he was making his way towards his NFL future in his junior year, Frank was called in to the coach’s office.
“Coach P. called me into his office and I thought I was going to play a different position,” Frank said. “And then, I mean, you can’t really prepare for that. You can’t really describe it. It’s tough.”
Back in Minnesota, his father, John Ragnow, had suffered a massive heart attack and died.
“It’s tough, especially right now. I mean, it’s so bittersweet,” Frank said. “My dad was my biggest fan. I mean, just all the way through … it’s my dream to play in the NFL, but it was our dream. And, just, we were so looking forward to this, I mean, I still have texts from this day of him saying that ‘We’re almost there,’ and stuff like that. And just now that it’s here, you really wish he could be here.”
Dad was a bigger-than-life man who was proud of Frank and proud of his family.
“John was [a] big presence, loud, very big personality, super funny, very, very funny, very well-known everywhere he went. Everybody knew who John was,” Marty said.
He provided Frank with a tough love, and man, did he love his son and his family.
“He was really hard on me, and we had our battles,” Frank said. “He was hard on me from a young age, but it came full circle. By the time I was junior, sophomore in high school, he had groomed me into a man, and then we were best friends. It’s so cool looking back.”
And so Dad has not been there for the NFL journey, as Frank has tried to impress scouts from around the league.
“It’s been hectic, it’s been crazy,” Frank said. “I thought after Pro Day I was done, and I just waited. But I’ve had private workout, after private workout, after private workout, to team visits. It’s been cool getting to meet all these NFL personnel and all these coaches, learning how they do things, their different nuisances and everything. I’ve been living the dream. It’s been unreal.”
And his family and girlfriend have prepared for his draft night. It is with mixed emotion. Exciting to be sure, but there is something missing, because there is someone missing.
“[John] would not be able to sit still,” Marty said. “He would have his phone, probably an iPad, the TV, and he would just be all smiles and so much fun, just having so much fun.”
Dad understood all of this, and his son understands it all.
“I’m proud to be the person I am because of him. You know, my brother when my dad passed was 18, and he was just starting to see that too and it just sucks because, you know, he was a great father and I’m very thankful,” he said.
Frank has made it through a tough ankle injury, and now he has made it to the top. His future is now in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.
When he reflects, he knows what Dad would be thinking.
“He’d be telling every single person in the room how proud he is,” Frank said.