Frank Ragnow only made it a few words into his opening remarks before he had to pause, struck by a wave of emotion as the magnitude of the moment hit him for the first time.
The Detroit Lions center had so many people he wanted to thank after signing a lucrative, multi-year extension with the franchise that selected him in the first round of the NFL Draft three years ago. There was the Ford family, current and past front office executives, teammates and coaches dating back to high school.
It was clear he didn’t want to forget anyone, but when he got to his parents, Ragnow stumbled and needed a moment to collect himself. It’s been nearly five years since his father, Jon, passed away from a heart attack and the wound is still raw.
Ragnow has always worn his love for his family on his sleeve. But this extension, which will make him the NFL’s highest-paid player at his position, marked the fulfillment of a goal he had set long ago.
“When you sign a contract like this, it’s kinda hard to digest that kind of money, right?” Ragnow said Friday. “I don’t know, it just must of hit me today. But I mean me and my dad and my mom, we’ve kinda planned this. If that makes sense. This has always kinda been the goal since Day 1.
“I was at my mom’s house yesterday and we were going through some of my school projects,” Ragnow continued. “I had wrote my goal was to make it to the NFL and be able to take care of my parents. My dad and my mom are my people, you know, and I’m very grateful for them. You know, my dad is not here, but I’m very excited to take care of my mom because I had an amazing childhood, man. I’m so proud of the way that 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 and everything — but to be able to give back to my mom and my family, it means the world.”
Asked how he thinks his father would react to the news of his extension, Ragnow brought some levity to the moment.
“I was texting some of my dad’s buddies,” Ragnow said. “They said they were all crying, you know? One of my dad’s buddies, Toby Saxson, said he’d be doing cartwheels. They said he had a pretty mad cartwheel. But he’d probably call me a schmo for crying on national TV or whatever.
“He always used to say this thing, ‘I’m just going to keep putting pizzas in the oven, and one day you’ll buy me a helicopter.’ So I’m pretty sure he’d be saying something like that. He’d be ecstatic. My mom and my brothers and sisters would even give him crap because he just couldn’t turn it off. He would talk about me quite a bit. He had Google alerts set so if any of you guys wrote anything, he’d be the first to read it and he’d send it to me and be like, ‘Pretty cool, sport. Pretty cool, champ.’ So I mean, he’d be telling anyone anything they want to hear.”
The extension, which ties Ragnow to Detroit through the 2026 season, is the most significant financial commitment that’s been made by the franchise’s new regime. With left tackle Taylor Decker signing a similar extension last offseason and the fresh addition of Penei Sewell in last week’s draft, the deal ensures the team’s young, talented offensive line will be in position to grow together the next few years.
“Frank is a foundational piece of what we’re building in Detroit and he is everything that we’re looking for in a Lion,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said in a statement. “Frank plays the game the right way and he has dedicated himself to improving his craft each season. We are ecstatic to come to this agreement and to have Frank as a leader on our team for years to come.”
Speaking of improving, Ragnow, an avid outdoorsman, briefly put a trip to the state’s Upper Peninsula on hold to come in and sign his contract. Now that ink has been put to paper, he’ll hop back on I-75 with a fresh goal in mind.
“I’m going to the U.P. and go try to smash my personal-best smallmouth (bass) to celebrate,” Ragnow said. “Then get home in time for Mother’s Day.”
Because, with Ragnow, family will always come first.