When his agent called Wednesday night to tell him his record-setting extension with the Detroit Lions that had been in the works for months was close to being finalized, Frank Ragnow’s fiancee phoned his mother and invited her over to their house to celebrate.
Marty Ragnow brought cookie dough and baked cookies. Jack Ragnow, Frank’s younger brother, watched the Minnesota Timberwolves angrily on TV. And the man of the hour marked the occasion the only way he knows how — by being the same down-to-earth guy that has endeared him to just about everyone he meets.
“It was a pretty normal night,” Ragnow said Friday. “It’s kind of a hard thing to digest, and like right after they left, I texted my family text message (thread) and I was like, ‘I’m sorry, guys. I don’t even know how to react about this.’ So we’re all still kind of digesting it. I’m sure I’ll go home and cry now, especially with it being Mother’s Day (weekend). But it was very, I guess uneventful, if that makes sense. It’s hard to even fathom. NO SUGARCOATING: Lions WRs look like they’re from the Island of Misfit Toys
Ragnow officially signed a four-year, $54 million extension Friday that makes him the highest-paid center in the NFL and should keep him in Detroit through at least the 2026 season.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes said last week Ragnow was “a foundational piece” of the organization’s rebuild, and Ragnow grew emotional Friday 25 seconds into his 16-minute news conference when he thanked his current and former coaches, Lions ownership, his agents, his fiancee and his family, including his mom and dad.
“Holy cow, my dad,” Ragnow said, pausing to contain his emotion. “I don’t think it’s ever really hit me till right now.”
Ragnow’s father, Jon, his biggest and most proud supporter, died of a heart attack in October 2016, during Ragnow’s junior season at Arkansas.
On Thursday, Ragnow said he and his mom were going over old projects from his grade-school days when he found one from when he first learned to write in cursive and spelled out his life’s ambition: “To make it to the NFL and be able to take care of my parents.”
“My dad’s not here but I’m very excited to take care of my mom cause I had an amazing childhood, man,” Ragnow said. “I’m just so proud of the way I was raised and how I was raised and my upbringing. To be able to give back to my mom, I wish I could give back to my dad and go fishing with him and everything, but to be able to give back to my mom and my family means the world.”
Ragnow grew up in a close-knit family in suburban Minneapolis, playing sports and enjoying the outdoors with his parents and four siblings. His mother survived a bout with breast cancer in 2015, and Ragnow has remained close with some of his father’s friends since his dad’s passing.
When news of Ragnow’s extension became public Thursday, he said one of his dad’s friends texted to say his father would be doing cartwheels in celebration.
“He said he had a pretty mad cartwheel,” Ragnow said. “But he’d probably be calling me a schmo for crying on national TV or whatever. But he used to always say this thing, he’s like, ‘I’m just going to keep putting pizzas in the oven and one day you’ll buy me a helicopter.’ So I’m sure he’ll be saying something like that. But he’d be ecstatic.”
Ragnow probably could afford a helicopter with his new extension, which eclipsed the five-year, $62.5 million deal Corey Linsley signed with the Los Angeles Chargers in March as the largest contract ever given to a center.
Including previously negotiated salaries in 2021-22, Ragnow’s full contract maxes out at just under $69 million.
Ragnow joked he wants to take his fledgling Grizzly Man Outdoors brand — he has a YouTube channel by that name where he posts hunting and fishing videos with his brother — global, and he said he’s headed to the Upper Peninsula this weekend to celebrate his new deal by trying to smash his record for largest small-mouth bass of 5.33 pounds.
“Then get home in time for Mother’s Day,” he said.
On the field, Ragnow said he’s excited to be part of an offensive line that should field three first-round picks this fall in him, Taylor Decker and new addition Penei Sewell. And he said his new deal won’t change the way he approaches his work.
“There’s definitely you could say a pressure that comes with it, but I think one thing that has gotten me here today is just my pride,” Ragnow said. “The pride in the name. And that’s kind of been — there’s a lot of outside sources that can put pressure on you, but I don’t think it’s ever going to be more than the pressure I put on myself.”