LAWRENCE — Mike Ragone is a Jersey boy, plain and simple. There’s his South Jersey mannerisms and accent — “C’mon, man!” … his affinity for his grandmother’s Italian food … and his tendency to get uncomfortable during moments of silence.
When Ragone, a senior tight end at Kansas, went home for Thanksgiving last week, his dad and two brothers met him at the airport and took him straight to Geno’s in South Philly, home of the best cheesesteak in the area, Ragone says.
“Oh man,” Ragone said “It was, dude … so good.”
But a few days later, Ragone was back in Lawrence, preparing for the last weeks of his football career. Six years after he committed to play football for Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, Ragone will finish out his career on Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va., a five-hour drive from his hometown of Blackwood, N.J.
“Dude,” Ragone said. “Six years.”
Maybe it could have been different. At Notre Dame, Ragone’s former teammates are prepping to play for the national title after a perfect regular season. But for Ragone, who was granted a medical redshirt and used the graduate transfer rule to come to Kansas, it’s been a worthwhile cap to his college career.
Ragone and his fellow Notre Dame transfers, Dayne Crist and Anthony McDonald, preferred not to talk about their former teammates this week. But all year, they’ve said similar things. The Notre Dame roster is still full of former friends. They still keep an eye on the Irish. But their focus is now here at Kansas.
For Ragone, that means finishing the year off with a victory after posting a 1-10 overall record and 0-8 mark in the Big 12. Ragone has just two catches this season — he’s been used primarily as a blocker — but he’s added an element of toughness to the KU running game.
Now it’s time to move. But Ragone and the Jayhawks have one more chance to get the ship moving in the right direction.
“All I’m focusing on is just ending this on a good note,” Ragone said. “I want these guys to be happy.”