Hawk Talk Monthly — November | 24 Hawkeyes to Watch 2018-19 | I-Club Events Page | Hawk Talk Daily links | Single Game Football Tickets | VIDEO — Nico Ragaini | Football Freshman: Spencer Petras | Football Freshman: Tyrone Tracy, Jr. | Football Freshman: Tyler Linderbaum | Football Freshman: Kaevon Merriweather | Football Freshman — Dillon Doyle | Football Freshman — Henry Geil | Football Freshman — Julius Brents | Football Freshman — Riley Moss
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa freshman Nico Ragaini has more in common with Hawkeyes Fred Russell, Shonn Greene, and Tevaun Smith than simply playing on the offensive side of the football.
Ragaini, who attended Avon Old Farms School in Avon, Connecticut, is the most recent football student-athlete to find his way to Iowa City after a stint in preparatory school. Russell and Greene went to Milford Academy in New Berlin, New York, and Smith attended Kent School in Kent, Connecticut.
Adding to the prep school honor roll, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe worked together at Worcester Academy in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Ragaini was a lacrosse and football star at Notre Dame High School in West Haven, Connecticut. He set a state record with 222 career receptions and accumulated 3,345 receiving yards in the process. Still, his college choices weren’t to his liking, so Ragaini entered Avon as a postgraduate student.
“Growing up, I wanted to play big-time football,” Ragaini said. “That was always my dream and I knew once I got one chance I had to run with it.”
He had an opportunity to play at Yale or wear a grayshirt at Boston College. Ragaini’s reply? Thanks, but no thanks.
Enter O’Keefe, who was a senior at Notre Dame High School (the same school Ragaini attended) when Tom Marcucci started there as an assistant football coach. Marcucci was Ragaini’s head coach.
The 6-foot, 191-pound wide receiver soon landed on Iowa’s radar because of the connection between O’Keefe and Marcucci.
“We liked him as a high school player and last winter we felt it was a good time to make a move on him,” Ferentz said.
Ragaini was offered a scholarship on Sunday, Jan. 7. The next day he returned to Avon, packed his bags, and drove off into big-time football.
“Iowa gave me my first chance and I stuck with it,” Ragaini said.
A health and human physiology major, Ragaini aspires to be a physical trainer, increasing speed and quickness of future prospective Division I student-athletes. Working with a physical trainer since sixth grade paid off for Ragaini, who has already seen action in two collegiate games.
He recorded his first college reception (for seven yards) late in Iowa’s 38-14 win over Northern Iowa. It was a nice ending to his day that began with his third bus ride from the team hotel in Cedar Rapids to Kinnick Stadium for the pregame Hawk Walk.
“The bus ride here and seeing people lined up down the streets, that is the craziest thing ever,” Ragaini said. “Getting off the bus and walking into Kinnick is the coolest feeling I have ever felt in my life. Finally making my first catch was even crazier and it is all I ever wanted.”
Iowa heads into its 10th game of the season with a record of 6-3 overall, 3-3 in the Big Ten. Ragaini has played against Northern Illinois in the season opener and Northern Iowa in week three.
“This year is a big learning experience,” Ragaini said. “I know my role and I’m trying to go as hard as I can every practice and take in everything the older guys do on the field, so next year if I get my shot, I will be ready to go.”