In the third in a series of stories that will feature Seminoles who have gone into coaching at the high school and college level, the Osceola sat down with former Florida State strong safety Bill Ragans, who has been coaching either at the high school or college level for almost 30 years. Ragans is about to begin his third season as the defensive coordinator at Tallahassee (Fla.) Chiles High School.
The Live Oak (Fla.) native began his coaching career at his alma mater, Suwannee High School after a short career in the NFL and NFL Europe. Ragans, who lettered for the Seminoles from 1987-1990, also spent three years at FSU as a graduate assistant on defense. In his first season on the coaching staff, FSU won the 1993 national championship season. He was at FSU through the 1995 season before moving on to Valdosta State as an assistant coach. Other stints as an assistant included stops at Madison (Fla.) County High School, Colquitt County (Ga.) High School and Tallahassee (Fla.) Maclay School. He also spent nine years at Tallahassee (Fla.) Leon High School, including six seasons as head coach.
Ragans began teaching in 1997 and has been coaching high school football since his stop at Valdosta State. He and his wife Stephanie, who Bill met while both were students at FSU, recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Stephanie was an FSU cheerleader from 1989-1992. They have two children, a son, Tripp, and a daughter, Bailey Kay. Tripp will be a senior this season at Chiles and like his father plays safety on the football team. He also is also on the tennis and weightlifting teams. Bailey Kay will be a junior this year and is a member of the Chiles cheerleading and girls’ flag football team.
Please see below the Osceola’s Q&A with Bill Ragans:
When did you first begin to think that you might want to become a coach?
At the end of my playing career, I coached at my high school in Live Oak. I got hurt in Seattle, and came home and rehabbed that fall and coached. I played the following spring in the World League, hurt my knee again, had surgery, and decided to end my playing days. I coached again that fall in Live Oak, then got to come back to FSU as a graduate assistant coach.
Why did you ultimately decide to coach?
When I was a graduate assistant at FSU. I just fell in love with the idea of helping kids and still being involved with the game I love.
What is your favorite thing about being a coach?
Being able to help develop kids and help them reach their potential.
What is the most gratifying thing about being a coach?
When a kid that I’ve coached goes off to college, then comes home with a college degree. I’ve always told kids that they are going off to school to get an education. Make sure you take care of that first.
What coach or coaches at FSU impacted your decision to become a coach and what did you learn from them that you apply to your own coaching style and how you handle players on and off the field?
Coach Bobby Bowden and the whole defensive staff from when I played, Coach (Mickey) Andrew, Coach (Wally) Burnham, Coach (Chuck) Amato and Coach (Jim) Gladden. Those guys were just awesome in my book. They just worked so well together. Coach Andrews made the biggest impact on me as a player and coach. How he could get on your ass in a way that made you want to do better! I am very thankful that my wife was able to be around the coaches’ wives while I was a graduate assistant. My wife is a great football coach’s wife. Those ladies were a big part of a lot of my teammates and my life (Diane Andrews, Barbara Burnham, Peggy Amato and Patty Gladden). Those coaches all knew how to get the best out of their players.
What do you want your former players to say about you 20 years from now?
That I was hard on them but fair! I loved on them like they were my own, and always expected the best from them on the field and off.
What is that like to coach your son and what are its challenges and rewards?
It is just rewarding to see him grow and mature into a young man. Seeing him go through the same trials and tribulations that football put us all through, and seeing him grow from it. I try to treat him just like every other kid. He could answer that better than me.
What has changed the most about football since your playing days?
The game is just not as physical as I remember it being. We would’ve been down half of the starting defense and most of their backups for contact penalties they call in today’s game.
Looking back on it now what impact has your experience at FSU had on your life?
It has meant everything to me! I had a few smaller football offers, so I would have played somewhere. We love Tallahassee and have been here our whole life together. I would probably have ended up living in my hometown my whole life if it weren’t for the opportunities that FSU helped open for me.
There is a lot going on in the United States right now including a world wide pandemic with Covid-19 and questions about Racial Equality that has led to both peaceful protest but also riots around the country. Have you had to address these issues with your players and how have you addressed with your players?
I truly believe that if the real world could mirror a locker room we would be better off. Athletes learn to work together for a common goal and to press toward things as a group, win together and lose together. We talk to our kids about always being role models, being leaders in our school and in the community.