Red Bank High School senior offensive lineman BJ Ragland has undoubtedly experienced waves of emotion regarding his football career over the past 24 hours.
If finding out his Lions would be able to host their season opener against longtime rival Soddy-Daisy on Aug. 21 as planned wasn't big enough, the defense-demolishing, 6-foot-2, 300-pound tackle announced his commitment to Tulane University on Wednesday afernoon.
Ragland chose the Football Bowl Subdivision's Green Wave, who compete in the American Athletic Conference, out of more than 30 scholarship offers from Division I schools. The New Orleans program's outstanding alumni include former NFL star running back Matt Forte, and the current roster includes former Notre Dame High School standout Patrick Johnson, a defensive end who is preparing for his senior season.
"To be able to announce my decision to Tulane is crazy," said Ragland, who has a 6-foot-6 wingspan and is considered extremely athletic for his size. "At first when I was getting recruited, I was leaning more towards smaller schools and FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) programs. I didn't think I would get offers as big as I did. To be in this position now is a blessing."
Ragland — listed as a preseason TSSAA Class AAA all-state selection in Murphy Fair's preseason publication and ranked as a top-1o offensive lineman in Tennessee by GridironScouting.com — said his final decision came down to Tulane and Central Florida, which won the AAC title in 2017 and 2018 and played for the championship last season.
Tulane, entering its fifth season under coach Willie Fritz and coming off back-to-back 7-6 campaigns after four straight losing records, will gain an offensive lineman with quickness, power and the ability to spring huge gains on the ground. Versatility is another asset: Ragland, who helped Red Bank average more than 180 yards each in rushing and passing per game last season, said he can play anywhere on the line.
He received his offer from Tulane on June 22 during a recruiting period made unique by the coronavirus pandemic. With college visits and camps nonexistent this summer, schools had to find new ways to impress prospects.
"I could feel the energy as soon as I joined my first Zoom meeting with Tulane," Ragland said. "The coaches loved me, and it felt like home. They gave me a great feel of what it would be like to be a part of the program, and they showed a lot of love. I talked to Patrick (Johnson), too, and I can't wait to be a part of what they have going in New Orleans, which is a great city."
With Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announcing Tuesday that high school football season can start without delay, Ragland is excited to try to push the Lions to more achievements. He is hungry to get back the Region 3-3A championship, which Red Bank won three straight seasons (2016-18) before finishing runner-up to Loudon last year.
However, the ultimate objective for third-year coach Chris Brown's team is to compete for a state championship, and the Lions have ample senior talent that includes Cameron Bell and Jadon High on the defensive line, running back and defensive back Lumiere Strickland, wide receiver and defensive back Kel Eddins, plus emerging star Reco Trimble, a junior running back and defensive back.
"We have a lot of guys who are going to turn heads," Ragland said. "We are happy to get a chance to play. I fell in love with the game of football my freshman year thanks to Coach Tim Daniels, who was my psychology teacher who used to be the head coach at Red Bank. Without his support and the love from my mom, I wouldn't be where I am today."