Veteran QB's to-do list: a) lead team to title b) retire
Danny Ragsdale has plans this summer.
Big, life-altering plans.
He's getting married the first Saturday of June, during a bye week for the Billings Outlaws. And sometime in August, he will move to the Bay Area of California to become a graduate assistant for the Stanford University football program.
"I'll be working with the corners. Go figure,” Ragsdale said with a laugh about his assignment to coach Stanford's cornerbacks.
But before the wedding vows and the move to Stanford, Ragsdale has more pressing, more immediate duties.
He's the quarterback for the Billings Outlaws.
Ragsdale also holds the title of offensive coordinator and the responsibility of carrying the Outlaws into the championship game of the National Indoor Football League.
The 27-year-old Ragsdale guided the Utah Warriors to the NIFL title game last season and is expected to do the same for Billings.
"This was the best shot to win the championship,” Ragsdale said of changing teams.
Ragsdale was 341 of 505 passing for the Warriors last year during the regular season, completing nearly 68 percent of his passes. He threw 73 touchdown passes and was intercepted only 17 times. Ragsdale posted similar numbers in three playoff games.
"Utah was a great place to play,” said Ragsdale, carefully searching for his words. "Billings, I was looking for an organization that's a lot more stronger and a lot more secure. Utah just wasn't as stable.
"Duane Anderson (Outlaws owner) is one of the main owners of the league. It seems like they were putting together a pretty good team.”
Ragsdale helped Utah defeat Billings on consecutive weekends last season. He took countless hard shots from the Billings defenders, knowing they were trying to put him out of the game. Each time he was tackled, Ragsdale just got up and tossed another complete pass.
"That's just part of the game,” he said, knowing the Outlaws' agenda.
Ragsdale has won at every level of football he's played - high school, college and professional. The generously listed 6-foot, 195-pound quarterback won't wow fans with long, tight bullet spirals, but with a knack of always finding the right receiver.
"I can't say it's because of my physical stature,” the confident Ragsdale said of his on-field success. "It's the mental strength, no doubt about it.
"So many other quarterbacks throw a prettier ball than me. Where my edge comes is at the line of scrimmage. I know what I'm doing.
"I know how to read defenses and I throw it to spots. We work on spacing, getting receivers to the right spots.
"I liken football to a chess game, with some brutality thrown in.”
As he did in Utah, Ragsdale will call his own plays. He and head coach Dan Maciejczak will formulate a game plan during the week with Ragsdale making the final play-calling decisions as the game progresses.
"I'll call plays at the line of scrimmage,” said Ragsdale, who's not afraid to take input from his teammates. "The best coaches, actually, are the receivers. Fifty percent of the play calls come from the receivers, letting me know what they see out there.”
Ragsdale will have plenty of options and sense of security. Bryan Meier, who led the Outlaws in receiving last year returns, with Chris Anderson, another quality receiver, along with Cory Grow and Jason Quinn. Grow and Quinn combined to catch 46 touchdown passes from Ragsdale last year. Both Grow and Quinn were among Billings' leading receivers in 2002.
"With Cory and Jason, there is a certain comfortable level there,” Ragsdale said. "They understand my little nuances and I understand them.”
And Billings fan can expect the same wide-open, throw-first-run-later offense the Outlaws have displayed the past few years.
"Obviously, we're trying to score a touchdown on every play,” said Ragsdale, flipping a football through the air as he spoke. "We want to throw the ball as far and as high as we can, every play. Even when it's fourth down and inches, we're still going to go as far as we can.”
Ragsdale, the NCAA Division III player of the year in 1999, understands he and the rest of the Billings offense are marked by the rest of the league.
"Everybody wants to be the first team to shut us down,” he said. "Every week, I've got to go out and prove myself. The attitude is, I've got to show myself today, I can't rest on my laurels.”
Ragsdale and his fiancee Ahnee Schmidt - they met while he played for the Bismarck Blaze - planned to be married on June 4.
"She's the one making all this happen,” he said with a smile about the wedding. "I just have to show up.”
For Ragsdale, this year's season has taken on a more serious tone. There will be no more games to play after the final whistle.
"This is definitely my last year of playing football,” he said. "I was happy Stanford said I would be able to play and sneak in another season.
"This being the last season, I want to make it a memorable one.”