‘Dons’ will never be the same. Or at least not for Joe Ranalli, as he shared his memories of his friend Ryan McCall. McCall and Ranalli had their own language. They would shorten everything. When they got together only they could understand what the other was saying. They called McDonalds “Dons” and a cheeseburger “Doub Chey.” The two called themselves, “The Bumb squad.”
“We ran, ate and slept and that’s what we did,” Ranalli said. “I will remember everything about him.”
McCall’s fellow runners, friends and family will always remember him for his contagious smile and his ability to make everyone laugh. The University of Tampa senior Excercise Science Major was not only an athlete, but a coach to thousands who impacted everyone he met.
“You don’t understand how this single act of violence affects thousands of people across the whole United States,” Ranalli said.McCall’s promising career as a coach was tragically cut short early Wednesday, Aug. 19.
A robber stopped him and his friend, Mike Carahan, on their way home and demanded money. Then, he shot McCall.
It was Joe Ranalli’s 21st birthday and after hanging at the house for a while they decided to go out to the Retreat. After an hour or so passed, Ranalli and Chris Catanach, a cross-country teammate walked back home.
Later on, the lights popped on in Ranalli’s room and when he opened his eyes he saw Carahan.
“We got mugged, we got mugged,” Carahan said. “I heard gunshots. Ryan is missing.”
Carahan doesn’t go to UT, but had come down with Ranalli and McCall to help them move into their new house in Tampa.
The three, McCall, Ranalli and Carahan, were good friends from Downingtown, Pa. and they all went to Downingtown West High School.
Ranalli, not believing what he was hearing, ran outside and started screaming Ryan’s name.
He called 911 and ran to the bridge. By the time they got there, three Tampa Police patrol cars were looking for McCall.
When they found him it was too late.
As time passed, Ranalli continued trying to process what happened and stayed away from any news cameras.He and his teammates made sure to spend time with McCall’s family.
“We lost Ryan, but I gained a whole new family,” Ranalli said. “We are all a part of his family now.”
Ranalli knew McCall since seventh or eighth grade. They were on the same track team and same cross country team at Downingtown West High School. McCall graduated one year before him.
When they came to Tampa for college everything changed. Ranalli said when they first moved into their house over the summer they didn’t have cable but it didn’t even matter because McCall served as the entertainment.
They would all laugh and joke around.
“It was one of the best times we had together,” Ranalli said. “It meant something.”
McCall was always so happy and spirited and his friend said that he put so many smiles on people’s faces.
“He always had a smile from ear-to-ear,” Ranalli said. “He affected more people than I wish I could have affected in my life in 21 years.”
Now that he is gone, it will be left up to his teammates and McCall’s friends to continue affecting people’s lives.
“Our biggest thing is to make sure we live the rest of our lives the way Ryan would live his life,” Ranalli said. “To live through it, we can make Ryan live through us. Just by the way we act and the way we help people.”
Both Ranalli and McCall helped coach Cross Country and Track at Tampa Preparatory School right across Cass Street.
Shelley Ruberg, Tampa Preparatory Cross Country and Track Head Coach, said that McCall had made a tremendous impact on the team.
“He was a positive guy,” Ruberg said. “He built everybody on the team up.”
McCall primarily worked with the sprinter boys and he let them know that they were worth a lot to him.
“They all looked up to him,” she said.
Coaching was his passion and his future and you could tell Ruberg said. He wanted to be a track coach and this is why he was able to make such an impact.
“He always came in with that smile,” she said. “He was here doing what he loved and it definitely showed.”
Ruberg said that the team was putting money together to put a memorial stone on their campus. They also signed a Cross Country jersey and sent it up to the funeral with Ranalli.
The team will be joining the UT community during the campus wide memorial service on Friday, September 11. As of printing, the time and location was unknown. Check http://www.theminaretonline.com for updates.
In reflecting his friend’s death, Ranalli questioned like so many people did.
“Why would someone pick up a gun and shoot someone over a couple of dollars?”
“You never want to have anyone see their friend die, especially by a gun,” he said.
He isn’t completely foreign to the question. During the summer, Ranalli worked with the Juvenile Justice System in Philadelphia. Some of the kids he dealt with were often the ones doing the shooting.
He doesn’t have the answer to the question but wants to know how we can put more effort into helping these people. Ranalli said that one way the community could memorialize Ryan is by figuring out how to stop the violence.
Ranalli has decided not to leave the area where he lived with McCall and will make sure that nobody ever walks back home regardless of the time of day. He suggested that students should not be afraid to call someone to pick them up.
Ranalli also said that he and his friends were not doing anything wrong. They were walking back on the same familiar path they used on a daily basis.
The cross country team is going to continue running even though one of their best friends and teammates will not be with them.
Ranalli said that he will think about him before every race.
The family has set up a fund in honor of Ryan McCall. For more information visit http://www.ryanmccallmemorialfund.com/. Donations can be made at any Wachovia branch, payable to Kevin or Joanne McCall with Ryan McCall Memorial fund on the memo line.