Penn football Alumni Q&A: All-Ivy Quarterback Billy Ragone
To Penn football, winning Ivy games in impressive fashion is nothing new. After defeating Columbia last Saturday, Penn looks to continue its recent success going into the weekend in a showdown against Yale.
In preparation for the game, we took the time to connect with former Penn quarterback Billy Ragone. A three time Ivy champ, Ragone credits a lot of his success on the field to good leadership that came from Coach Bagnoli. Over five years at Penn, Ragone started 35 games at quarterback and was named first team All-Ivy in 2010. He also set the career touchdown record at Penn with 56 total (36 passing, 20 rushing). Here’s what he had to say.
Daily Pennsylvanian: What were your football experiences like at Penn? What was it like returning for that fifth season?
Billy Ragone: Having a bonus semester is not something that everyone gets to have. While that didn’t lead to an Ivy championship we were certainly successful in the five years that I was there. … I thought the culture of the team was great. We were fortunate enough to be successful and that always makes your experience a little better. I couldn’t have asked for anything different in your college career.
DP: Do you think the leadership helped you to be successful?
BR: Absolutely. My first two championships were freshmen and sophomore years so having those older guys helping you through the process. And then my class and the class above me were used to winning and we did not take that for granted. We were looking to add to the unbelievable resume that Penn football has.
DP: What did you think of Al Bagnoli as a coach?
BR: His resume speaks for itself. He’s one of the most accomplished coaches in Ivy history so to play for a guy like that was something special in itself. A lot of the kids he attracted were hard-working kids who wanted to win, had good character – that was something we all bonded over, which made it easier to play for each other in a way. That all starts with Coach Bagnoli. His way worked and we were fortunate enough to be a part of his success.
DP: What about Bagnoli as a Coach was most memorable for you?
BR: One of the most memorable things for me was his ability to find success in every game. He challenged us to be better and build upon things that we were successful doing, while fixing our mistakes. … He didn’t care about how successful he was in the past. He didn’t want his players to hang their heads over an Ivy championship the year before. And that trickled down through the coaches: it’s a new day, new week, new year, and you’re only as good as your last game.
DP: Do you have a favorite memory from Penn football?
BR: One of my favorite games was at Princeton in my senior year (2012). We kind of had a bumpy road up to that point and we were able to rattle that off with a victory. We had a pick-6 from a defensive lineman to tie the game. Then we were able to punch one more score in, recover a fumble inside our own 10, and win the game. We were on the verge, we made a couple of great plays and we had to keep our season alive. We followed that up with a win at home against Harvard in similar fashion. But in that Princeton game, we all really came together and we had some unsung heroes. But really everybody contributed to give us a shot at that championship.
DP: You’ve done a lot of practicing against Coach Priore’s defense. What do you think of him as a coach?
BR: Coach P is – like Coach Bagnoli has the respect of every player and every coach in the League – [revered for] his defense. I know they’re struggling this year and he’s taking a bit of criticism but he always puts a polished product on the field. It was something difficult to go up against every practice. I certainly looked forward to going against other teams on Saturdays than going up against his defense. As far as coaching goes, the energy and passion he brings is second to none and he does a really good job motivating his players on game day, getting them to do what they need to be successful.
I have the utmost respect for him as far as defense is concerned. Competing with him on the practice field we had a good relationship. A little bit of trash talk here and there but it was good fun and all for the better of the team. I enjoyed sharing the football field with him for five years.
DP: Do you think that he will provide for a smooth transition?
BR: [Priore] has been there longer than Coach Bagnoli has so if there is anybody to succeed such a storied coach, I think he’s definitely the right person. He’s been a part of the program. He knows the alums. He knows the League. He knows what type of players he needs to be successful and we’re looking forward to him taking the reins and making a mark on the program instead of being a piece of the puzzle. We’re looking forward to him taking the reins and hopefully we can rebound a little bit and let Coach Bagnoli leave on a high note. Congratulations to Coach Priore for getting the opportunity and we are all expecting him to take advantage of it.
DP: So, what are you up to now?
BR: I’m currently working in New York for a startup innovation and marketing agency with another former Penn football player, Matt Makovsky. He graduated in 2005. He’s also a multiple Ivy champion, so that’s what I’m up to now and I’m looking to continue my career in the marketing field and enjoy myself.
…And my body is happy that I’m not playing football anymore