By JOEY JOHNSTON of The Tampa Tribune

It was a half-century after the end of his athletic career. His wife had died years earlier in an automobile accident. A stroke had robbed him of his business, his vitality, much of his happiness.

Then the letter arrived in 1971.

Dear Mr. Ramsdell, We’re pleased to announce you’ve been selected for the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame…

Somebody remembered.

Ashley Wakefield “Rammy” Ramsdell, the first scholarship athlete at the University of Florida, the Gators’ first quarterback of note, was immortalized.

“He was thrilled,” said Jean Ann Cone, Ramsdell’s daughter. “It was a surprise. He showed everyone that letter. It meant so much. Years pass and people forget, you know.”

To even the most avid Gator fan, Rammy Ramsdell is just an obscure name in the record books, somebody who played with a leather helmet, who pulled his socks up to his knees during basketball games.

Rammy was his nickname, but it wasn’t a word play off his last name. According to the UF yearbook, Ramsdell “rams the same as a real goat on the football field.” He was just 150 pounds, but apparently ram-tough.

He made his first splash at Hillsborough High School as quarterback of the football team and leader of the Terriers’ undefeated state-championship basketball team in 1913. He played end in football and “though a dwarf, comparatively, he seemed not to mind whom he tackled,” according to his senior yearbook at Hillsborough.

Money was tight, but he got to college through a scholarship from UF’s Tampa Alumni Association. He made the most of his opportunity, become a four-sport star and earning 12 letters at UF.

Football was his best sport. He rushed for four touchdowns against Mercer in 1915, a record tied by only two other Gators, Tommy Owens (1928) and Fred Taylor (1997). “The little general of the Florida outfit was a cool and level-headed leader,” read a passage in UF’s 1916 yearbook, The Seminole. “His skill at running back punts was unbelievable, and seldom did he fail on those spectacular end runs, which were his favorite pastime.”

 

Rammy Ramsdell was the Florida Gators quarterback in 1914.
Rammy Ramsdell: Hillsborough ’13
  • Highlights: Ashley Wakefield “Rammy” Ramsdell, born on Nov. 6, 1895, was the star of Hillsborough High’s 14-0 state-championship basketball team in 1913. He was the quarterback of the 6-1 football team, which lost only to Duval 42-15. … Ramsdell became the first scholarship athlete at the University of Florida. He was the football quarterback, a member of UF’s first basketball team in 1915 and a center fielder in baseball. In track and field, he ran the 100, 220, 440 and 880, while also competing in the high jump. … Ramsdell’s football highlight was a last-minute 50-yard touchdown run in a torrential rain, giving the Gators a 14-7 win against Tulane in 1915. … In the next game, he rushed for four touchdowns against Mercer. He’s still tied for that record along with Tommy Owens (against Mercer, 1928) and Fred Taylor (against Florida State, 1997). He’s also one of five Gator players to score 24 points in one game. … Ramsdell’s athletic career ended when he broke his leg in a baseball game against Auburn. … He became a teacher at Wilson Junior High School, then later owned Ramsdell Trucking Company in Plant City. … Ramsdell, who was named to the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in 1971, died April 14, 1977.
Ramsdell’s athletic career ended in 1916, when he broke his leg during a baseball game at Auburn. He was brought back to Gainesville in the baggage car of a train. He walked with a bit of a limp, preventing him from service in World War I and sending him to a career in education. He later settled in Plant City and owned a trucking company. After a stroke in 1950, he sold the business. Cone said her father never looked back with regret on his fallen athletic career, but was grateful to be recognized during his final years. Ramsdell died in 1977, at the age of 81. Athletics were big throughout his family. His daughter was a cheerleader at North Carolina during the era of Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice. His granddaughter, Julianne, married Graham McKeel, a UF fullback from the 1960s. His great-granddaughter, Marika McKeel, was the ACC diving champion last season at North Carolina State, while another great-granddaughter, Jenna McKeel, is swimming at Georgetown. And his athletic legacy lives at Florida Field, inside the Touchdown Terrace, his photograph sharing space with other Gator greats. “I don’t think there’s anybody still around who saw him play,” Cone said. “All these years later, it’s nice to be remembered.” Up next – No. 97: East Bay’s Monica Triner goes from youth-league legend to college All-American to a professional softball league champion – all in her home county.