Jerry Ragonese Overwhelmed By Response After Scoring First Career Goal


Jerry Ragonese knows the number: 1,085. That’s how many days he went without suiting up in a professional lacrosse game.

He played once with Redwoods back in 2019 as faceoff legend Greg Gurenlian’s backup, his first action since 2016. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, his priorities changed. His company, Pro Athletics, shifted from producing custom sports apparel to PPE masks. A trip to the Premier Lacrosse League bubble in Utah wasn’t in the cards.

After a year away, he struggled to hook on with a team at the start of camp in 2021. When 2022 rolled around, he was calling anyone who would listen trying to get back involved.

“I must have reached out to every single coach a million times,” Ragonese said. “I drove out to Long Island and all over God’s green Earth looking to get reps with pro guys and get some film there to send to the GMs/coaches just to show, ‘Hey, I may be 35, but I can certainly still do this thing.’”

Eventually, Chaos coach Andy Towers gave him a chance that culminated in a career highlight for the veteran FOGO in Minneapolis. Eleven years after making his pro lacrosse debut with the Rochester Rattlers of Major League Lacrosse, Ragonese scored his first career goal on July 1.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Ragonese said. “I’ve never had so many people throw a parade for doing my job. But I never knew so many people cared, which is very humbling.”

Towers displayed his trademark bluntness when he first made the call to Ragonese, a trait players have routinely complimented the fiery coach for. Depending on the circumstances, the Chaos might not even have a spot for him. The defending PLL champions were primed to get Max Adler back in the fold after his National Lacrosse League playoff journey concluded with the Buffalo Bandits. The club had also picked up Tommy Kelly, who was previously on the squad in 2019 and 2020.

“I got out to camp and he cut me straight,” Ragonese said. “He was like, ‘You know, you’re a lot better than I even thought you were going to be. I’d love to keep you on the team.’”

Up until Week 5 in Minneapolis, Ragonese’s role was limited to practice, where he tried to do whatever he could to help the Chaos succeed. His number was finally called when he least expected it, about 24 hours prior to the team’s matchup with the Cannons at TCO Stadium.

“I was just getting ready to go to the gym and head down the shore for the Fourth of July weekend,” Ragonese said. “I said to myself, ‘I’m going to squat so hard that I can’t walk so I can eat as many hot dogs and burgers and have as many Coors Lights as I need on the weekend. … I was about to walk out the door and I got a call from [Towers]. Not even a hello. He just goes, ‘You’re in.’”

A last-minute family situation meant Kelly was unable to travel, so the Chaos scheduled a flight for Ragonese out to the Midwest the morning of their game. There wasn’t even enough time to get his jersey ready, so he donned a blank No. 83 uniform as he walked out the field.

After three long years, he was back.

“If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else is going to believe in you,” Ragonese said. “Sitting there just working in the gym when there was no hope, getting reps when there was no hope. It was more of a ‘Good on you for doing the right thing, doing what needed to be done,’ for myself more than anything.”

His first career goal came 10 minutes into his return. He beat Stephen Kelly to the left of the faceoff stripe, getting an opportunity to run largely untouched deep into the Cannons’ zone. Just as he was about to take a stick check from behind, Ragonese took a shot while diving forward that went up top past Nick Marrocco.

“I’ve had that goal and how it was going to happen in my head for a long time,” Ragonese said. “Marrocco is a lefty goalie, so I had to get him moving that stick to the right side since he’s on my shooting side. So, I thought I would leave my stick out to the right to get his stick moving and then duck my head on that dive so he would go low. I pulled it back to get to this stick side high. I knew exactly where the ball was going to go, and I was glad it hit cage. But I definitely didn’t see it go in.”

As Ragonese got off the ground, he walked away using his stick as a cane in reference to being the oldest player on the field. That celebration was planned, though some wondered if he legitimately came up gingerly when his leg was taped shortly after.

Once he made it to the sideline, Ragonese took part in an interview with ESPN that quickly went viral on lacrosse Twitter.

“Sometimes the bumper falls off on a racecar,” Ragonese joked when asked about the tape job. “A little spit and glue and I’ll be right back out there.”

He was back out for the next draw before feeling his hamstring pop, ending his day in the first half.

“Jerry Ragonese, I can’t say enough about him being such a warrior,” Towers said. “For a guy that played his last game in 2019, ironically when he was on the Redwoods and he played against us out in San Jose, this is a guy that has made a living at being an expert at facing off. And he did an incredible job for us, but he pulled his hamstring. As much as he was dying to go back in, we had to protect him from himself and make a decision that we were going to go with the poles.”

CJ Costabile and Jack Rowlett put together an admirable performance with Ragonese down, with Costabile winning five of his 10 attempts and Rowlett two of his eight. That helped keep the Chaos afloat and secure a 13-11 win.

“CJ Costabile is as far from being green to the faceoff as a pole could possibly be,” Ragonese said. “He’s probably one of the best poles to ever take a draw in the history of the game. So, we were square there. We knew he was going to do just fine. We just didn’t want to run him too hard because he played defense for us as well. And Jack Rowlett coaches an incredible faceoff unit at Georgetown, so he’s not green to this either. I know he gets reps versus those guys with his pole.”

Ragonese heard an outpouring of support from the lacrosse community after the game, with some messages coming on social media and others directly to his phone. It was enough for him to tweet after the game that he couldn’t look at his phone without crying.

“I’ve never looked at my phone and had so many notifications, so many people calling and texting, ‘Congratulations, I knew you could do it, we’ve seen all the hard work,’” Ragonese said. “I knew it wasn’t time put to waste.”

The note that stood out the most for him came from ESPN broadcaster Paul Carcaterra.

“He said, ‘That was amazing yesterday,’” Ragonese said. “’Life gives you blessings in weird ways. That goal was more than a goal. It allowed people to celebrate for you, and based on how people reacted, that you’ve done right for so many people. Congrats, I hope that the hammy is OK.’ That moved me to tears. I didn’t really have the words of what everything meant for me, and he did for me.”

Ragonese’s future remains up in the air. In his postgame interview in Minneapolis, Towers shared optimism that Adler will be healthy following the league’s All-Star break. Kelly did well in his stead through the first four weeks of the season, winning 50 percent of his draws.

“I hope that wasn’t the last of it, because I love the game so much,” Ragonese said. “If that’s the [last] note, that was definitely a high note in my career — if not the highest. Not just because I scored, but because we won and I was able to contribute.”


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