MOBILE, Ala. — The public-at-large will see linebacker Reggie Ragland wear an Alabama helmet just once more — Saturday’s Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
But make no mistake, it won’t be the last time the Huntsville-area native dons the classic crimson helmet adorned with the number ’19.’
“No, I’ll be able to wear it most of the time, because I’m going to keep after I’m done playing, and put it on my head around every now and then,” said Ragland on Thursday, just moments after the South squad wrapped up its final padded practice of the week.
The private helmet moments of future Alabama revelry won’t be exclusive to watching football games on TV. Ragland might even don the treasured piece of memorabilia before going to sleep at night.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” says Ragland, heartily laughing at the notion of sleeping with the helmet on — but not necessarily disputing the idea, either.
“It still hasn’t really hit me, especially after winning the national championship … it still hasn’t hit me that I’ll be wearing (the Alabama helmet) for the last time,” says Ragland, one of five Crimson Tide players at the Senior Bowl.
At least, in public.
Ragland (four career sacks) made headlines prior to Senior Bowl Week, declaring his intention to cross-train as an outside linebacker during the South practices. It was a bold move for someone who might already be a top-15 pick in the NFL draft as a middle/inside linebacker.
By all appearances, though, Ragland passed the “outside linebacker” experiment with flying colors.
Either way, Ragland has few peers when closing on a ball-carrier. During Tuesday’s practice, Ragland sprinted 30-plus yards — across the field — to tackle Minnesota receiver K.J. Maye. The athletic, ferocious play even drew praise from Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, who is moonlighting as the South’s head coach this week.
“I’m going out there (on Saturday) in front of the home crowd in the state of Alabama,” says the personable Ragland. “And I feel very blessed.”
Just don’t expect Ragland to surrender his Crimson Tide helmet to the adoring fan base after the game.
He already has big plans for it.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.