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December 6, 2012

The Cheering Doesn't Stop for the 'Crazy Colonel' - Ragsdale

The proverbial feeling may be that prior to game time, Daniel Ragsdale enters the local phone booth wearing his official Army uniform designated to his rank as United States Army Colonel.

But as he exits, he can be seen wearing on his chest that symbolic ... no, it's not the "S" for for Superman, but it might as well be if you speak to the Army faithful.

Actually, what you will see is the No. 12, representing the 12th man and the name which follows has become something of folklore around the Army football program and even other sporting events ... where most recognize him for exuberant and supportive fanaticism.

The corp of cadets call him the "Crazy Colonel" and if you see him in operation at Army football games, you would never have to wonder why.

The Crazy Colonel "uniform" has the No. 12 on the front and says 'Black Knight' on the back. "Some people see that and call me the Black Knight and I'm like really ... that doesn't make any sense," shares Colonel Dan Ragsdale, who found humor in 'Black Knight' connotation.

But there is so much more to Ragsdale than being an Army sports' fan, and probably the greatest barometer to who he is can also be seen beyond the military career. What is that you might ask? Well, it is displayed in the team he supports and loves the most, his family. A husband of 30 years to his lovely wife, Cindy and their three children.

There oldest, Roy, USMA 2009, is an MI officer in the Army. He has completed a 12-month tour in Afghanistan and he will be promoted to Captain on 1 Dec 2012. Their middle child, Reed, USAFA 2011, is a 2LT in the Air Force. He is in pilot training in Pensacola Florida. Then there is daughter, Kelsey, USNA 2013, who will graduate and be commissioned next May. She expects to be a Surface Warfare Office specializing in Meteorology and Oceanography. They all lived most of their lives at West Point (Kelsey was born there). While Ragsdale has spent nearly 20 years of my adult live at West Point (including his Cadet days) .

"Not counting important family events, nearly all of my fondest memories are of Army victories on various field of friendly strife," declares Ragsdale, who is hoping after this football season, all of the trash talking that he has had to endure from his "family" will cease and desist ... at least for the moment.

GoBlackKnights.com had an opportunity to catch-up with the Crazy Colonel for a time of Q&A.

  • GBK: When did you become truly passionate about Army football?

  • Ragsdale: I had the opportunity to go to Texas A&M for a year before I came out to West Point. So I got introduced to college football in a setting where the fans were very much a part of the game. Kyle Field is a place where a lot of opponents don't like to come to. I got a chance to see what a difference a crowd could make and I took that sort of spirit with me when I came to West Point. During my time as a cadet I was very vocal, supporting of the Army team and have always loved athletics.

    West Point talks a lot about how that the character that's built through competition on the field through friendly strive and I'm an absolute believer in that.

    By the way, we did beat Navy my plebe year and it made all the difference in the world. The value of that game in the minds of not just the cadets, but the faculty. When we win that game, everything is different, everything is better. Coach Ross (Bobby) use to joke that the grass is greener, the food test better and even your wife is prettier.

  • GBK: What has been one of your greatest Army football moments and why?

  • Ragsdale: Actually that's really easy. So certainly the victory against Navy in 1977 and that sticks out in my mind ... hard to forget something like that.

    Then there's been some real special games. Interesting that the two this year were absolute highlights. The game against Air Force and Boston College.

    I have another connection with Boston College {laughing} since it turned out to be a great year and it will be even greater after Saturday. So, my wife is an alumni of Boston College and through the years and haven't had a whole lot of luck against BC. My wife and I have been married for 30 years and have been together for 37 years. In that time I think we've beaten Boston College just once and she's a trash talker. She's a sweet sweet woman, but she's a trash talker {laughing}. Everybody in my family are trash-talkers ... everybody. So we knocked off my wife's school and turned around and knocked of my son's school (Air Force) and he was at the game with his girlfriend. He was talking all trash before the game and I was yelling the stands, that, 'I want to see my son cry, I want to see him weep today before my very eyes'.

    So, now that I think about it, if we win on Saturday, we would have beaten Navy and I would get see my daughter's disappointment as well. Some may say, why would you want that? No, you haven't been in my house. Where they come into my house talking their trash. I tell 'em, you come in with that talk, you are not only breaking house rules ... you know there are house rules about respecting mom and dad. The last time I looked at the commandments, you are violating God's rules. So if you want to flirt with eternal damnation, you go ahead and keep that up. But they don't care {laughing}.

  • GBK: How important is it for Army to beat Navy on Saturday and why?

  • Ragsdale: Again, it's going to make all the difference in the world. It's been a tough season and they've had their share in some respect, bad luck. I think the last game against Temple and I have the greatest respect and admiration for Coach Ellerson, but he was on point that he just didn't prepare them well for that game. It was just a tough tough loss and if we beat Navy, the world changes. Some of the struggles that we've seen this year will be forgotten and it will set them up for what I consider to be a very bright future. You look at what they did against Air Force and the capability to beat this Navy team is there.

    Because at the time, none of the kids that are playing today have even experienced a victory against one of the fellow service academies. The win gave them an opportunity to see that it wasn't something just in the abstract, but you can actually do that and not do it but experience all that came with that.

    I can't think of a more exciting moment at Michie Stadium than at the end of that Air Force game. And you saw what we did against Boston College, which was more magic in Michie Stadium. I think having gotten a taste of that is really what this team needed and I think they are going to go into the Navy game with a degree of confidence that they haven't had in the past, where they can knockoff a team like an Air Force and Boston College.

    So yes it's important and I think Coach Ellerson is the kind of coach that West Point needs to attract in all of its sports. Because he understands the academy that few coaches begin to approach. I want his tenure to be long and prosperous and successful. And part of that means that we're going to have to find a way to beat our fellow service academies. We were very close the past couple of years and I think we are going to go into Philadelphia this year with the right schemes, he's going to have the team well prepared and I think it's going to make all the difference when we come out of there with a victory and we will come out of there with a victory this weekend.


  • GBK: I know you are proud of all of your children. But can you tell if there was any pressure on your son Reed, who is a 2011 graduate of the Air Force Academy or your daughter Kelsey, who is scheduled to graduate in 2013 from the Naval Academy felt any pressure in attending West Point, knowing that you are West Point grad, spent nearly 20 years of your adult life (including your cadet days), along with having your oldest, Roy graduate from the USMA in 2009?

  • Ragsdale: As it turns out, there was no pressure. You know, as much time as I spent at the academy, I totally buy into what all of the academies are about. I think that the choice that the young man or woman makes to
    accept that challenge says a lot about them and the experiences they have are frankly unprecedented, in terms of what opportunities they provide for young men and women.

    I was not surprised and very thrilled that they were interested in academies. But I was very careful to not push, because I was a young person too at one time. Everyone needs to feel that in important life decisions that they have some degree of autonomy when you are a young person and breaking your ties.

    No pressure, but ended up choosing different, but similar routes.

  • GBK: What is your prediction for Saturday's contest and what will be the deciding factor in Army's first win over Navy in 10 years?

  • Ragsdale: I think the deciding factor is really simple and it's going to be turnover margin. If we can hold onto the ball, we will win the game. If we don't put it on the ground, we will win the game and I think it really just comes down to that.

    ** To chat with other Army fans about this article and more, please visit The 12th Knight message board.**


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