Ragone won't be going anywhere up the Texans' quarterback depth chart anytime soon with $47 million invested in No. 1 selection David Carr. That's why Ragone, a lefthander from Louisville, had a mixed bag of emotions when he was selected by Houston in the third round of the NFL draft in late April.
A dream come true, Ragone says the start to his professional career hasn't been "the fairy tale I thought it was going to be."
The predicament may seem like a no-win situation for Ragone, who will enter training camp behind Carr, Tony Banks and Mike Quinn. He wasn't even the most notable quarterback taken by the Texans, who also choose former Michigan quarterback-turn-minor-league baseball prospect Drew Henson in the draft.
"I believe everything happens for a reason," Ragone said. "I know the situation. Some people perceive this as a bad situation. I don't."
Ragone impressed the coaching staff during a three-day rookie minicamp with a strong arm, his ability to grasp the playbook and precision passing. Once considered a first-round pick, Ragone's stock dropped after returning to college for his senior year and he was selected 88th overall. Those that know him say this will only serve as motivation. Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who worked with Ragone his first three seasons at Louisville, calls Ragone "the steal of the draft."
Waiting is nothing new for Ragone, who at 6-3, 249 pounds resembles a linebacker more than a quarterback. He waited three seasons to play at a national high school powerhouse St. Ignatius in Cleveland. As a senior, Ragone threw for 25 touchdowns and 2,827 yards in an all-state season. Not highly recruited, Ragone landed a scholarship with Louisville. Again he found himself watching as the backup to Chris Redman, now with the Baltimore Ravens.
"I know what it's like to sit and learn," Ragone said.
After taking over the starting job in 2000, Ragone went on to make a name for himself at Louisville. During a three-year career, Ragone passed for 8,564 yards, 74 touchdowns and was a three-time Conference USA offensive player of the year. He led the Cardinals to a pair of C-USA titles, three consecutive bowl appearances and a rise in national prominence.
However, his worst statistical year came last season. Ragone threw for 2,503 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, his lowest totals since his freshman year. He also completed only 53.7 percent of his passes, down from 61 percent in 2000 and 60 percent in 2001. Part of the reason in the statistical drop-off was a result of a new offensive coordinator, an offensive line that underwent a total makeover and allowed 43 sacks in 2002 and the loss of three of the school's top receiving targets. Ragone said his decision to stay in school was about "loyalty."
"The goal is to stay in the NFL. It doesn't matter where you get drafted, as long as you stay. I know he's going to be a good quarterback at this level."