FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas senior center Frank Ragnow laughed and joked throughout most of his post-practice session with reporters Tuesday evening.
Then a tough subject came up.
Frank, how are you doing personally?
The joy instantly evaporated from Ragnow’s face. He knew what the question was referencing — his father’s sudden death last October — and struggled to find the right words.
“You know, it’s been a …” Ragnow began before pausing. “I have my highs and I have my lows. I’m just trying to …”
Ragnow paused again and tears began to form. The reporter who asked the question apologized.
“No, you’re fine,” he said. “You’ve just got to take it one day at a time. I wouldn’t be anywhere without (strength coach Ben Herbert), (offensive line coach Kurt) Anderson, all the guys here.
“It sucks. If I didn’t have football, I’d probably be home right now.
“I’m just trying to survive. It’s tough knowing you’re far away from your mom and your brother and your sister.
“But in the end, I know my dad’s with me and as tough as it is, I’ve just got to take it day by day. You know?”
Jon Ragnow, 54, suffered a heart attack on Oct. 1, 2016 in Victoria, Minn., and died only hours after he watched the TV broadcast of Arkansas’ win over Alcorn State.
Frank flew home that night and stayed with his family most of the week. He returned to Fayetteville and started the Hogs’ Oct. 8 game against Alabama.
A special talent
Jon Ragnow certainly would be proud of the junior season his son ended up having. Frank became arguably the best player on the entire Arkansas football team — so good, in fact, that he briefly considered skipping his senior season to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
Pro Football Focus named Ragnow as college football’s best offensive lineman and run blocker for the 2016 season. He enters his senior season as a legitimate All-America and Rimington Trophy candidate.
“Frank is unusual,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said this week. “He could literally play all five positions. He could probably play tight end to be quite honest. And I’m not joking.”
“He will be the one player on our roster that I will probably limit time during the scrimmage situations.”
Bielema added that he believes Ragnow is so good that he isn’t sure how much better he could get.
Ragnow seemed overwhelmed by that level of praise and called the idea of not participating in scrimmages “weird.”
“I don’t even know how to handle it,” Ragnow said. “It’s a humbling thing to be looked at with the ability that I can be held out, but I am going to be out there chomping at the bit to at least be speaking to the guys. We’ll just see how it goes.”