Ahead of Sunday’s clash with the rival Eagles, Giants linebacker Reggie Ragland tackles some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: Describe fellow former Alabama Crimson Tide player Jalen Hurts.
A: That’s little bro. My senior year we’re in the bowl game, and the early enrollees can come and practice with you. Everybody was like, “Who is this kid with these dreads playing quarterback?” He was acting like Deshaun [Watson], I kid you not. He had kept it, and he was running, and he did a dead leg on me — I was like, “Who the hell is this guy here y’all?” (chuckle). And everybody’s like, “Hell, he’s quick and can move.” His dead leg’s able to stop at any time and make the tackle pass you, so he has a helluva dead leg. And ever since then, man, I’ve been proud of him, facing all the adversity he’s faced, and then putting himself in the position that he’s in now to keep being successful. He’s a good dude, too.
Q: What kind of problem does he present on Sunday?
A: He can throw and he can run, and he’s smart, so he’s gonna put his guys in position, and he makes plays, that’s the biggest thing in this league, you gotta make plays, and that’s what he does. So we gotta do a great job of stopping him, and keep him inside the pocket. We can’t let him get out of the pocket, gotta keep him in the pocket.
Q: Describe your late high school teammate Dez Dennis.
A: A true brother, a true friend. He always kept me out of stuff. He always made sure to tell everybody if anybody got a chance at being successful at playing sports, I got a chance. So ain’t nobody gonna let him do nothing around us. He made sure that I was protected as a friend.
Q: You knew him since your freshman year of high school.
A: I had just moved to Bob Jones [High School in Madison, Ala.], and the funny thing about it like when I first met Dez (chuckle), he looked me up and down and said, “Man, you ain’t really that damn big.” Ever since then, me and him were locked on to the hip, like his mom is like my mom and his little sister’s like my little sister.
Q: Describe how devastating it was for you when you learned during your sophomore year at Alabama that he had died in a car wreck.
A: I damn near broke my hand when I found out ’cause I punched the wall so damn hard in my dorm the day before we played Tennessee. And I had a test, so I still went and took the test, but I didn’t care if I passed or failed the test. Every time I went back home to Alabama, that was the first person I called. … Knowing I couldn’t call him, and then seeing him in that casket … it hurt me to my soul. I couldn’t even go to the viewing. We just saw him at the funeral the next day, but man, everybody was just devastated, ’cause Dez meant so much to everybody. You know you got that one person that everybody gravitates to? Dez was that person, for all of us. I think about him just about every day. I think about him all the time. … His favorite thing to do was play football. Right before he got in the car wreck, he was gonna get a second chance to play football with Colorado State. I had just talked to him for like a couple of days before then, and he was so excited, you’d hear it in his voice and everything.
Q: He was a linebacker, too.
A: He wasn’t as big as me, but he had heart. He led our team in tackles ’cause everybody used to run away from me so everything would funnel towards him and he would go make every play.
Q: Do you think he could have been a pro?
A: He had a shot. … He wasn’t scared of nothing.
Q: Robbie Clark.
A: Robbie was autistic. Growing up I was always taught to never see a person for having disabilities or nothing like that. One day we were in kindergarten, and I don’t remember this, but like his mom tells me this story all the time. His mom called my mom one day after school, and kids were picking on Robbie, and nobody picked on Robbie the rest of the time I knew Robbie because they knew I was gonna get on their ass. Robbie’s a great person, he loves Disney. He could tell you about Walt Disney, and the history of everything about Disney. Still to this day I still stay in contact with him.
Q: Describe your on-field mentality.
A: Whatever it takes to get it done. Make every tackle — pretty or ugly.
Q: You seem like you’re too sensitive and too nice a guy to play inside linebacker in the NFL.
A: I’m the youngest of seven. Trust me, ain’t nothing sensitive about me (chuckle). Even though everybody loves to call me like a teddy bear … everybody loves to call me “Unc” ’cause I like older music. It’s just something about this game for me. Off the field? I want to be known as the nicest guy, but when I turn on that film … it’s just something about me that clicks ’cause I just love playing the game. I guess that comes from getting beat up around my older brothers. I have five brothers and one sister. I guess that comes from them.
Q: Off the field you’re a teddy bear, on the field you’re a what?
A: I say a gorilla (laugh).
Q: What is it like playing for the New York Giants?
A: There’s nothing like having that N and that Y on your helmet, and going out there in front of them fans.
Q: What do you think of Sunday’s Michael Strahan’s jersey retirement?
A: The beast. I was a big fan of Michael Strahan growing up seeing him come off the edge and make plays and watching him being vicious and being a leader, and then you hear some of the stories about him, how he always kept guys accountable. I’m excited for him and all that he’s accomplished.
Q: Describe defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
A: Smart as hell, great dude. He loves old-school rap.
Q: Coach Joe Judge.
A: Great dude. All the stuff you hear about Coach Judge, man, it’s really not true, he loves guys that work hard and want to be successful.
Q: Kenny Golladay.
A: A silent killer. He don’t talk much, but all you gotta do is throw that ball in his way, he’s gonna go get it.
Q: Shaq Lawson.
A: Smart and crazy.
Q: Crazy how?
A: You gotta know Shaq.
Q: How did winning two national championships at Alabama compare with winning Super Bowl LIV with the Chiefs?
A: I’ll probably say my favorite moment was winning the national championship my senior year ’cause I actually got to play the whole year and I was up for all the accolades and everything like that, so it made it much sweeter being it my last year at Alabama with my guys. As a freshman, winning the national championship, all I did was play kickoff, so I was just being happy to be in the moment. Winning a Super Bowl, I’m not gonna sit here and lie — it still really hasn’t hit me yet that I won a Super Bowl. Being around everybody that I grew up around, like, “Man, wow, you won a Super Bowl?” And like my dad even cried on the field. I was really more excited for my family to get the experience of coming down and watch me win a Super Bowl. Crazy as it sounds.
Q: Describe Patrick Mahomes as a teammate.
A: Patrick’s a great guy. He’s Superman on the field, but just getting to know him as a person, he’s even a better person. He’s always looking out for his guys. If I needed something, I know I can call him. Still to this day, me and Patrick talk off and on every now and then.
Q: Andy Reid.
A: I love Andy Reid. He’s truly a player’s coach. You can always go and talk to him about anything that you got going on in life.
Q: Steve Spagnuolo.
A: He really challenged me mentally, and he also made me a better person, too. He always asked you questions about your personal life.
Q: Describe your third-and-goal of Tom Brady at the 1-yard line in the AFC Championship game following the 2018 season.
A: I knew we needed a play, ’cause they’re about to go 14-zero on us if I don’t catch that. My only regret in that moment is not bringing the football out of the end zone. I had space to run, and everybody was telling me to get down. But losing that game … it hurts to be so close to your goal, and then you just lose. We had ’em up against the ropes towards the end of the game, we had every chance and every moment, but we just didn’t capitalize on it. That’s why you gotta have some type of motivation, and so the next year, that was our whole goal is to get back and win the whole thing.
Q: If you could can pick the brain of any linebacker in NFL history, who would it be?
A: Growing up my favorite linebacker was Ray Lewis. But I’ll probably have to say Dick Butkus, for the fact that if remember correctly, I think his team was like the worst team in the league, and he still was the MVP of the league as a linebacker. … My favorite player was Rolando McClain because me and Rolando live probably like 15, 20 minutes away from each other … then he went to ’Bama, too.
Q: If you could go one-on-one with any running back in NFL history to test your skills, who would it be?
A: Probably “Sweetness,” Walter Payton. He was just that guy. Everything about him was smooth, everybody loved him.
Q: What are your thoughts on former Bills coach Rex Ryan, who acquired you in a 2016 trade before you tore your ACL?
A: I wish I’da truly got to play for Rex. Rex is a good dude, man, despite what a lot of people say about him. That defense of his was truly made for like my body type and the player that I am. Before I got hurt, he was truly trying to implement me into the defense and make it easier on me, and I respect him a lot for that.
Q: What was it like meeting President Obama at the White House?
A: It was awesome. The first black president in America, for me to shake his hand is a truly surreal moment for me. I told everybody I made a promise to my mom that I get my degree, and he was like, “Just because he’s big does not mean he’s not scared of his mama.” It’s on YouTube somewhere.
Q: What is one motivational or inspirational quote you like best?
A: Tim Duncan: Good, better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best.
Q: What drives you?
A: My parents, and I couldn’t see myself not being successful.
Q: Fear of failure?
A: Yeah, fear of failure. Like as a kid growing up, everybody had me pegged to be this and be that. I couldn’t imagine being in my hometown being this type of guy growing up and then failing, and then the only thing you hear is when you walk past people: “Aw man, that’s Reggie. He coulda been this, he coulda been that.” That always drove me, even when I was in school. I always tell people I wasn’t the smartest, but my effort got me through everything.
Q: Describe your mother.
A: Sweetest lady in the world. My dad was the iron fist, and my mom was the pillow. … If it wasn’t for my dad always consistently pushing me and always reminding me of situations of what he went through growing up, and situations of other people to always keep me level-headed, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now, and that’s where I really got my mental toughness from. Seeing my mom and my dad get up at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning, my mom going to clean warehouses and stuff like that right before she goes to be a cook. Everything changed for me was the day my dad took me to paint with him when I was like 7 or 8 years old. My dad saw something in me that I didn’t see at an early age. He was like, “Do you want to be out here all day with me painting?” … And I got little tears coming down my face. And he was like, “OK then, always make sure you get your grades and always work your tail off.” Have you seen the movie “King Richard” with Serena Williams and Venus of how their dad Richard brought them up and like him having a plan? And like my dad always said he had a vision, had a plan for me to play sports. That movie really hit home with me ’cause like my dad really pushed me to be something that he seen before anybody else seen in me.
Q: Describe your late grandfather.
A: Him and my dad are the same people. My grandad did not play. One thing about my grandad, he always had his hot dogs, and he always had his Pepsi. That was my dog, that was my guy. I miss that man so much. At least he got to see me graduate college. That’s probably my biggest achievement, seeing him get to see me graduate at least.
Q: Your mother’s diabetes.
A: My brothers told me, like my mom liked to keep stuff away ’cause she knows I’m gonna worry about ’em. A month or two months later I found out my dad ended up having a stroke. That’s another reason I really buckled down when I was at Alabama, like seeing them two go through that, I knew I had to really get my s –t together and go play and give myself the best opportunity. … I was about to go back and check on them, especially when I found out my dad had a stroke. And my mom called me halfway on the way home, it was like: “Baby, me and your daddy are gonna be all right. You get your butt back down there and you focus on school, and you focus on your football.” And that’s all I needed to hear.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Martin Luther King [Jr.]; Jennifer Lopez, she was my first celebrity female crush ever; Muhammad Ali.
Q: Favorite movie?
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Denzel Washington.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Angela Bassett.
Q: Favorite singers/entertainers?
A: Luther Vandross, Mary J. Blige.
Q: Favorite meal?
Q: An Instagram quote from you beneath a photo of you in a Chiefs jersey: “I don’t look like what I been through.”
A: It really means like going through all the bumps and the bruises, and tearing my ACL my rookie year, just going through a whole bunch of stuff family-wise, losing friends and things like that, just to still come out on top.
Q: What is the single biggest obstacle or adversity you had to overcome?
A: I’ll probably say when I was at ’Bama, and everybody was telling me before I went to ’Bama, “You shouldn’t have went to ’Bama, you’re not gonna get to play, there’s too many superstars, there’s too many five-stars,” including myself. And then in the back of my head everybody telling me that I’m not gonna play — I’m gonna play. And then when I got my opportunity, I ran with it. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
Q: Do you feel like the best is yet to come for you?
A: Always. There’s so much that I still want to accomplish. I’m 28, but I still have way more life to live. If it’s in football, it’s in football, but if it’s not, I was made to be successful, and that’s what I’m gonna be.
Q: Any message for Giants fans?
A: Keep hanging with us. We’re gonna turn the corner. We got a great plan in place, we just gotta go out there and do it. It’s easier said than done, I know this city is all about producing. And I know one thing about me: I’m never gonna give up and I’m never gonna quit.