Joe Ramunno happy to just be one of the guys at Palisade
It took John Arledge about two seconds to know he was going to make a phone call last November after Joe Ramunno resigned as the head football coach at Colorado Mesa University.
“As soon as it happened, a couple of days later, I called him up and said, ‘Bud, you and I need to sit down and talk, because I would really love to have you come out here and be part of what we are,’ ” said Arledge, the football coach at Palisade High School. “Within a week we knew that’s what we were going to do. We tried to keep it on the down-low.”
It didn’t stay on the down-low long, but Ramunno has stayed in the background as much as possible.
At practice one day during fall camp, he talked about how much fun he’s having as one of the guys at Palisade.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Ramunno said. “I was real grateful that they let me come out and hang out with them.
“It’s always been a good group for me to be around. I spent 10 years out here, 10 pretty good years.”
He laughed about all the rocks he dug out of the plot of land that is now the football field, laid the sod and helped build the storage building/press box at the field.
Some of his former players at Palisade or Mesa — Pat Steele, Matt Borgmann and Landon McKee — are on the Palisade staff. He coached against Arledge, who was the defensive coordinator at Fruita Monument before going to Palisade.
“They’ve done a great job. These guys, all these coaches, they’re all the same,” Ramunno said. “They’ve got some guys who really drive these young men, and John gives the same message I gave. It’s pretty neat to see.”
Ramunno plans to get back into teaching, but for now is helping some friends run their orchard on East Orchard Mesa. Mike Fuller, one of Ramunno’s former players at Palisade, helps run his family’s orchard and brought his former coach in to help oversee packing and work in the office.
“I’m learning a whole new world,” Ramunno said. “It’s pretty cool. I’m trying to learn Spanish and am broadening out a little bit more. I’m working up there ... just trying to stay out of the way.”
Ramunno knew some about the orchard business when he was coaching at Palisade, juggling football camp around harvest season. His day starts about 6:30 a.m., he takes a break for football practice in the afternoon, then heads back to the orchard for a couple of hours.
“I’ve learned a whole lot more about it. It’s pretty cool,” he said. “It’s a lot like football. You’ve got a job to do, and you don’t stop until you finish.”
He and Steele are coaching offensive and defensive linemen, and Ramunno is back doing what he loves — teaching the game to young players.
He made his name at Palisade by having some of the most fundamentally sound linemen in the state at any level, and he rode that strength and the blue-collar work ethic of the Bulldogs to four consecutive Class 3A state titles from 1994–97, and was hired at Mesa in 1998.
“We’ve got some good kids,” he said of this year’s group of Bulldogs. “There are some guys with good height, and they play hard. That’s the key to Palisade: The kids know how to work.
“Blue collar, that’s what I’ve always said about this place. It’s blue collar, and that’s good. It fits our style.”
Arledge wasn’t concerned about bringing in a coach whose name is synonymous with Palisade football as an assistant, or a former college head coach.
“There’s no ego,” he said. “Everybody does everything here. It doesn’t matter. It’s great to have another coach my age. Everybody I work with are all youngsters to me.
“It’s good to have a guy my age to ask, ‘Hey, are we doing this too hard right now?’ You can bounce things off each other. The other thing is he knows what we need to do well. If I walk up to him and ask, ‘Are we weak in this spot?’ he can say, ‘No, we’re OK, we’re just a couple weeks out.’ “
Arledge and Ramunno have known each other for years, and the Palisade head coach is happy they’re on the same team.
“He has been wonderful to work with. We’ve always had a great mutual respect. We’ve always gotten along,” Arledge said. “I could work for him. If they came out and said we want to make Joe Ramunno the head coach, I’d be like, ‘Go at it, baby. What do you want me to do?’ If they made one of our young guys the head coach, I could totally work for those guys. They’re all good people.”
Both said it was a quick transition with the staff and players. Ramunno’s just another guy on the sidelines, and he likes it that way.
“I just want to be able to help,” he said. “I never (set out to be) a head coach anyway. I just kind of rolled into it and kept that going. That’s (how) I let my coaches operate all through the years, let them coach.
“It’s good to be back here.”