When Vincent Ragsdale transferred to USC two years ago, he realized he had a slim chance to achieve a childhood dream.
The undergraduate at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy grew up a Trojans football fan and has gone to games at L.A. Memorial Coliseum since he was 11. He’d always wanted to play for USC – one of the most successful college football programs in the country – but the dream seemed impossible. Ragsdale, then a 21-year-old who wanted to help build affordable housing, hadn’t played since high school.
Yet Ragsdale, who will graduate May 12 with a Bachelor’s in Real Estate Development, decided to try out for the team, anyway. He lifted weights six days a week to pack on more weight. He waited at athletic facilities to get the coaches’ attention. When they finally gave him an opportunity – a single 30-minute try out – he took it.
And Ragsdale made the team.
“It feels pretty surreal,” he said. “I still can’t believe it myself.”
Ragsdale plays in the defensive backfield for the Trojans, who just came off one their best seasons in years. While playing for one of the top college football teams was a dream come true, he said it was the one of the top real estate development programs that brought him to USC. He came to the USC Price School because he wants to help build affordable housing projects in California, a state facing a housing shortage.
“The classes are super personal. I know my professors very well. We can get coffee and chat. And my classmates push me and I push my classmates – we help each other out in any way we can. That’s a hallmark of Price that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Ragsdale’s interest in real estate stems from his job as an aide to Derek Reeve, former mayor and city councilman for San Juan Capistrano, California. In assisting the physically disabled attorney and politician, Ragsdale occasionally met with real estate developers and learned about their jobs and projects.
“Vincent has been very engaged in the community and an advocate for the ‘common man,’” Reeve said. “He aspires for what others may consider lofty goals, but like the proverbial underdog, he overcomes obstacles and conquers his objectives. He has a lot of fans cheering for him, on and off the field, in San Juan Capistrano.”
Ragsdale’s success on and off the field can be attributed to his strong work ethic, according to John Armistead, his former teammate. Like Ragsdale, Armistead was a walk-on defensive player who wasn’t recruited to the USC football team but earned a roster spot in a try out.
Ragsdale immediately distinguished himself on the team as one of the hardest workers who would stay after practice to get extra work in with the coaches, Armistead said.
“Especially as a walk-on, it takes a lot of courage to go up to a coach and say ‘Hey, I want you to invest in me a little bit and I want you to trust I’m going to put in my full effort,’” Armistead said. “He did that without any fear, which I thought was pretty cool because it just shows how hard he was willing to work.”
Last year, USC finished 11-3, played in the Cotton Bowl and was ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation. The team also featured the Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Caleb Williams.
Expectations are high again this coming season, and Ragsdale will again be along for the ride as he continues on his real estate career path at USC. He has two more years of athletic eligibility because of COVID-19 and for not competing in track as a freshman. While he pursues a Master’s in Finance from the USC Marshall School of Business, he will continue to play football – and try to help his favorite team win a championship.