In an article written titled T-Ring Reflection the statement is made that “many student athletes every year overcome injuries, obstacles, and hardships to fulfill their dream of graduating and earning their T-Ring. A ring that embodies the whole college experience of playing sports, lettering, and graduating from our great university. This group of men and women possess a special spirit, focused commitment, and an irrepressible passion to have an equity stake in Longhorn heritage that shapes the present and empowers the future. Ragan Gennusa is one of them.
Yoda says "You want to know the difference between a Master and a beginner? The Master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried".
Ragan Gennusa the Master he is.
Yoda knew Ragan when he said “In a dark place we find ourselves…” In his first two years as a Longhorn Ragan Gennusa found himself in a dark place and had to overcome several serious sports injuries to earn his T-Ring. In his first month as a Longhorn Ragan suffered a broken nose at practice followed by a nightmarish ordeal that caused both of his knees to lock up. For the next 18 months of his life he experienced a few partial recoveries that were followed by relapses which required a combination of surgeries, cast, and canes. His teammates kidded him by saying his scholarship was paid by Johnson & Johnson and not by Texas.
After a doctor suggested he quit football, Royal’s staff felt Ragan would quit so they took him off the summer mailing list. Ragan called Coach Ellington and asked to be put back on the mailing list. Ragan said “they did not realize that I was a “Buckshot Boy” (referring to his head coach Clarence E. “Buckshot” Underwood) and the thought of quitting never entered my mind.”
Steve Worster, Ragan Gennusa, and Bill Bradley
Royal said Ragan “could have quit and we’d have given him his full scholarship without any question.” “It took a tubful of guts for him to keep playing.” Ragan Gennusa was emblematic of the type of player Coach Royal liked to recruit -tough, passionate, stubborn, and positive. Ragan could by sheer strength of character will a win.
Ragan returned in the Fall of 1965 as the 9th team quarterback. He was first used as a “dummy” which required full speed contact drills against the starting team. Most football players with Ragan’s type of injury never recover from this demotion to play again. Being used as a dummy either re-aggravates the initial injury, diminishes the player’s skill set, or leaves a mental scar that leads to depression and a sense of failure that the athlete cannot overcome.
As a “dummy” Ragan received a concussion, 15 sticthes in his jaw, and a bicep that swelled to 20 inches due to delivering blows.
Ragan says “I got real discouraged during two-a-days … I was pretty far down”, but “it proved a blessing in disguise”. Something fortunate was about to happen.
Frank Denius in his book On the Way captures the essence of the T-ring spirit for many recipients. He says "there is a purpose in our hardships, because they demand persistence and determination to overcome. Adversity and difficulty often draw out qualities in a person that otherwise might never be realized and incorporated into a useful life."
Ragan Gennusa was living Frank Denius quote.
After a short period on the injured list, Ragan got his first break. The defensive coordinator,Coach Campbell, moved him from "dummy" to the offensive “attack team” which prepared the first and second team Longhorn defense by running the opposing team’s offensive plays. Ragan says “I chose to play split end because I thought I might be able to make some of the Longhorn defensive backs look bad,” and I might get a chance to replace one of them.
His strategy was sound, but the results unexpected. Ragan says “I was quite successful (at making the defensive backs look bad), and Coach Campbell told Coach Royal that I was beating the starting defensive backs regularly, and that he should look at me not as a defensive back but as a receiver". Ragan says “Royal did so at a Friday practice before the opening game with Tulane, and told me that I had been doing a good job, and that I could suit up for the game.”
The night before a home game the team always stays in a local hotel, but Ragan was not officially listed on the team roster so he says " I had to spend the night at Moore Hill and walk down to the stadium the next day". "I was wearing shorts and a “T” shirt, weighed 170 pounds, and bore a remarkable resemblance to Ichabod Crane."
"When I tried to enter the stadium, the gentleman at the gate asked me for a ticket. When I told him that I was on the team, he called for security and shortly before I was fitted with a straight jacket, someone who worked in the office happened to come by and told him to let me in the stadium."
"I was issued a Ernie Koy's jersey #23 which was an extra-large.” It was a short sleeve shirt for Ernie but a long sleeve shirt for Ragan.
Ragan remembers his first catch on the varsity as a redshirt sophomore in 1965. Since he had never practiced with the first or second team offense, Ragan did not know any of the offensive plays for the Longhorns, so Royal used a “sandlot” approach to tell Ragan what to do on each play. Right before half Ragan says “Coach Royal summoned me to his side and told me to go in for Pete Lammons at tight end, split out and run an out at 10 yards". Since his name and number were not listed on the team roster the stadium announcer could only say ‘pass completed to number 23’”. The announcer then frantically looked for a name to associate with the number and was successful. On Ragans next reception the announcer said "catch by Ragan Genesis ". It was the wrong pronunciation for Gennusa, but the right word to capture a special moment in Ragan’s life when a dark period finally turned to light.
In 1966 Coach Royal added a split end to the offense to take some pressure off the running game. Ragan won the starting position and every one learned how to pronounce his name.
As a starter he continued to hone his receiving skills with the help of three NFL friends- Ernie Koy, George Sauer, and Jim Hudson . Ragan says “my junior and senior year I led the team in receptions, not a great accomplishment on a team that rarely threw the ball, but more importantly, I did the best I could and fulfilled an obligation to my coaches, teammates, family, Coach Underwood, and myself”.
Coach Fred Akers was not as modest as Ragan when discussing Ragan's skill set. Aker's said "Ragan's hands were like a net". Throw the football in his vicinity and he would catch the ball.
Page Elizabeth Bauerkemper in her 2013 report titled Beyond Sports says " Many of the lessons and experiences that come from participation in athletics are career transferable skills. Competing with a team improves communication, leadership skill, toughness, and reliability. Athletics teaches many life lessons, including how to try again after failure, triumph with class, and the advantages of going the extra mile............."
Ragan had all the assets mentioned by Page in his "tool chest". After receiving his BFA in art in 1968, Ragan used the lessons he learned at Texas and from his High school Coach Underwood as his roadmap to success. Ragan says “after persistently working very hard and struggling for many years, I was able to make a living as a full time artist”.
In 1985, 17 years after graduating from U.T. , he was selected State Artist of Texas. In 2006 he received the John Ben Sheppard Jr. of Merit award from the Texas Historical Foundation for outstanding achievement in historic preservation.
In 2016 he was awarded the " purchase prize" which means it is purchased by the Briscoe Museum for it's permanent collection, and
in 2017 he won the Briscoe Museum "Patrons prize" which is the best painting.
Ragan's artwork has raised significant money at auctions for various historical groups, organizations, and causes including the Longhorn Foundation. His paintings hang in private and corporate collections nationwide, including New York Life Insurance Company in New York City, The Texas Longhorn Breeders national office in Fort Worth, The King Ranch, and The Briscoe Western Art Museum. Several of his longhorn paintings are prominently displayed in The University of Texas Alumni Center and large reproductions of six his paintings are hanging in University of Texas dorms as a part of the Food and Housing Departments “Longhorn Art Series”.
Success always comes in stages
One of Ragan’s favorite and most inspirational artistic endeavors is the Trilogy. While these three paintings symbolize the stages of success for the Horns on their path to the national championship during the period 1998 to 2005, these paintings also capture the stages necessary for success in ANY endeavor - storm, climb, and triumph.
A very limited number of prints of the “Trilogy” were produced and signed by Coach Royal and Coach Brown, the only two University of Texas coaches in history to win National Football Championships.
All three original paintings are property of The University of Texas and hang in the coaches offices.
The Trilogy is A Tribute to the Mack Brown Era
by Ragan Gennusa
- The first painting is titled "Longhorn Storm" symbolizing the beginning of the Mack Brown era with the Thunderstorm in the background symbolizing the support building for the Longhorns program and the charging longhorns portraying the excitement of the new program.
- The second painting is titled "The Climb to the Top," which depicts longhorns working up a steep hill, symbolizing the team's effort to work their way up in the national rankings. This is Ragan and Coach Royal's favorite because it delivers the message that success follows hard work.
- The final painting is called "Dawn of a New Longhorn Era". The longhorn stands proudly at the top of the highest point in the rich dramatic first light of morning, symbolizing the winning of a national championship under Mack Brown.
A "Longhorn Storm" rose up in the sky,
As they started their drive, their goals set high. (1998-2001)
cLIMB TO THE tOP
Through adversity and criticism, they just wouldn't stop,
As they continued their journey, their "Climb to the Top."
Over the last steep part of their journey they came,
Focused on their goals, they took dead aim.
Upward towards the summit, they kept on the move,
After all, they all had something to prove. (2002-2004)
DAWN OF A NEW LONGHORN ERA
And they reached their goals, in a perfect year,
At the top stood the champion longhorn steer.
As their tradition becomes history, the view is much clearer,
This is the "Dawn of a New Longhorn Era." (2005)
Ragan is one of those special individuals who has personal equity in Longhorn heritage and who represents a portal to the past to remind all Longhorns that traditions shape the present and empower the future.