Ragaini translates lacrosse skills to football field

Iowa wide receiver Nico Ragaini was a standout lacrosse player before joining the Hawkeyes, and used his time on the lacrosse field to improve his football skills.


Katie Goodale

Wide receiver Nico Ragaini attempts to avoid the defense during Iowa football vs. Miami (Ohio) at Kinnick Stadium on Aug. 31, 2019. Iowa defeated the Miami (Ohio) 38-14.

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa wide receiver Nico Ragaini is one of the many options quarterback Nate Stanley has to throw to from a deep corps of Hawkeye wide receivers.

A relatively new face to Hawkeye fans, Ragaini is a redshirt freshman who has worked his way into some significant at both slot receiver on offense and punt returner on special teams.

Something that has accelerated Ragaini’s prowess on the gridiron is his talent in a different sport.

The East Haven, Connecticut, native was a standout in lacrosse before he became a Hawkeye and believes the time he spent on the lacrosse field benefited his development as a football player.

“Lacrosse and football are both really physical sports,” Ragaini said. “In lacrosse, I was a midfielder so I played defense and offense and sprinted up the field. So it kept me in shape over the summer all the time.”

As far as the technical aspects of each game, Ragaini viewed one sport as an opportunity to fine tune his skills in the other.

In the middle of a lacrosse game, he would imagine himself as a receiver on the football field.

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“When I would dodge a defender, I would almost think about it like I was running a post route,” Ragaini said. “So I’d come here, give him a little head fake and put up my left hand like I was running a little post route. Trying to spin the guy around and then switching it back.”

The ability to always work on and improve route running is key for any receiver, especially one who has to line up in the slot and avoid so many defenders.

Ragaini’s love of lacrosse was not something that was there from the start. He experimented with other sports, and eventually found the pair that he really enjoyed.

“I used to play baseball,” Ragaini said. “My dad used to play baseball in college and he always dreamed of me playing college baseball. Then in sixth grade I started getting bored with it and I wanted to play more active sports so I quit. I joined the lacrosse team and ever since then I’ve been in love with the sport. I always knew that I’d want to play football in college because that’s my true love.”

That dream has come true.

He is a college football player, and someone Stanley can look to in the passing game.

“Whoever is in the game we trust fully,” Stanley said. “We know that if you’re out there you can make plays.”

That trust makes sense considering the Hawkeyes have their deepest group of receivers in recent memory.

“Last year our best talent was at the tight end position,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “So you kind of go where your talent is in some ways. This year that may be at the receiver position.”

Ragaini almost didn’t end up in Iowa City. He got more attention out of high school as a lacrosse recruit than as a football one. Luckily for both Iowa and Ragaini, he ended up a Hawkeye.

“I had some offers early on for lacrosse,” Ragaini said. “But once I got this Iowa offer I knew it was what I wanted and I took it as soon as I got it.”