Have Car, Will Travel : Jim and Donna Rasnick Not Only Know the Way to San Jose, They’ve Been Everywhere One of Their Sons Played Football

Times Staff Writer

San Jose--Yes, Dionne Warwick, as a matter of fact, Jim and Donna Rasnick do know the way to San Jose.

You go north on Yukon to Artesia Boulevard, hang a left and head west until you hit the San Diego Freeway. Take the 405 to Interstate 5 heading north, keep going to the 152 turnoff, which leads to the 101 and, eventually, within shouting distance of San Jose State. Takes about 5 1/2 hours, Donna says, “without dilly-dallying.”

Also available are directions to Fresno, Long Beach, Fullerton and Las Vegas. Stockton? No problem. Wherever there is a Big West Conference football stadium to be found, the Rasnicks have car and will travel.

It’s been that way since 1981 when eldest son Rick was the starting center on the San Jose State football team.


After the 1982 season, Rick’s final one as a player at San Jose, the family took a temporary breather.

Ryan Rasnick, who is 8 years younger than Rick, played football at North Torrance High, which wasn’t so far from home--half a block.

Rick stayed at San Jose, first as a graduate assistant, then as offensive line coach. Only occasionally did the family travel in order to watch him pace the sideline.

“We figured it was Ryan’s turn, so we stuck with him,” Jim Rasnick said. “There had been times before when there was a choice that had to be made, when he lost out because Rick was the oldest.”


Fortunately for the Rasnicks, since Ryan graduated from North Torrance in 1985 there has been only one conceivable choice to make.

Ryan, who ran track and wrestled in high school when he wasn’t playing football or baseball, decided on a college that had become very familiar to him. Guess where?

Hit it Dionne . . . .

After redshirting his first year at San Jose State, Ryan is in his third season as starting free safety for the Spartans. The 5-10, 184-pound junior has been a starter in more football games (34) than any other player in school history.

And mom and dad have seen just about all of them. But then, it’s been that way since both of the boys were in grade school.

Rick and Ryan played Pop Warner football, Little League baseball and basketball. Their sister Kendahl, now 25, was a cheerleader, and Jim and Donna coached or rooted them on.

“Sports was always a family deal,” Rick said. Which was by design.

Jim Rasnick was put up for adoption as a child. Donna’s mother died when she was young.


“Jim and I both come from broken home-type situations,” Donna said. “I think that’s why we were both determined to spend as much time with the kids as we could. Whatever they were doing, that’s what we did.”

One thing the Rasnicks rarely experienced together was a vacation. There was too little time between seasons.

“Our first vacation was really this year. We went to Hawaii,” Jim said.

Hmmm. Sometime around September 17, perhaps?

“Yes,” Donna said. “We went to the game there.”

The flight to the islands in itself was a testament to Donna’s commitment to her boys.

“We could never get her to fly before,” Jim said. “But there was no other way to get to the game, so we had to get her on the plane.”

Once at a game, the Rasnicks are easy to find. Their dress is an obvious clue to their identity.


Before a game at Spartan Stadium two weeks ago against Fresno State, Jim was found wearing three layers of partisan-colored clothing. The top layer consisted of a blue satin San Jose warm-up jacket. Then came a blue football jersey, No. 24 (Ryan’s number), and underneath that a T-shirt reading “Coach Rasnick’s Rowdies” in the front and “Rough ‘em up Razz” on the back. Donna was wearing a white (yes, they are even color-coordinated) No.24 jersey with the same T-shirt underneath.

The “Rowdies” travel in packs. At practically every game, a dozen or so sit and cheer together. When San Jose travels to play Nevada Las Vegas on Nov. 19, Rick and Ryan will have a rooting section of about 40 family and friends.

“It’s great to have that kind of support,” Ryan said. “Good old North Torrance. The people there are great.”

The truth be told, those people are the reason Ryan isn’t going to school in Pullman, Wash., right now.

Washington State recruited him out of high school, and he wanted to go there.

He recalls sitting at home alone on the couch one day during his senior year of high school and staring at a Washington State letter of intent.

Ryan had already given a verbal commitment to Coach Claude Gilbert of San Jose, but an offer from the Pacific-10 school was almost too tempting.

“I was almost in tears. I didn’t know what to do,” Ryan said.

There was only one major drawback to playing in Pullman, however: Mom and dad wouldn’t be able to watch him play.

“I wanted to play in the Pac-10 and play against USC and UCLA, because they didn’t recruit me because they thought I was too small,” Ryan said. “But the main reason I didn’t go to Washington State was because of my family. My mom really wanted me to stay next to my brother.”

The Rasnicks said they tried to leave the decision to Ryan but found it difficult.

“I cried for six months,” Donna said. “I tried not to influence him, but I’m sure our feelings were known. We’d have died if we wouldn’t have been able to come to all of his games.”

In the end, Ryan decided simply to keep a good thing going. He had followed Rick’s footsteps throughout his athletic career. Why stop at college?

Of course, being little brother didn’t always make things easier.

Ryan vividly recalls his first day at San Jose.

“I came in wearing flip-flops, my shorts and a tank top. Everyone is like, ‘Who is this guy?’ ” Ryan said. “I think maybe they thought I was asking for autographs. I introduced myself and they said, ‘Is your brother Rick Rasnick?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ and they looked at me like maybe they weren’t too sure if I just got my scholarship because of my brother. It was the same way when I was a kid and my dad was the coach. All it took was time to prove myself.”

Ryan grew up playing in parks with Rick and his friends. “He was tougher than a cob from Daay 1,” Rick said of his brother. “He was always the runt hanging around bigger people, but he knew how to protect himself. He wasn’t intimidated by anyone.”

Said Donna Rasnick: “Rick denies he beat up on Ryan, but he did. That’s why Ryan is so ornery.”

Kendahl, who is 6-1, also is credited for developing her younger brother’s athletic skills and toughness.

“We’d play one-on-one and she’d post me up,” Ryan said. “It seemed like she was about 2 feet taller than I was. She used to bring her friends over and I’d fight with them. She had some nasty friends.”

Ryan is said to be the better natural athlete of the two, but both are considered overachievers.

Rick was a 2-year starter and team captain at San Jose State playing center at 220 pounds. Before San Jose, he made all-league teams playing for North Torrance and El Camino College. “He was always the serious and dedicated one,” Donna said.

Rick said he had to be that way because he was “never a great athlete. I had to work harder and know my assignments better than anyone else.”

The extra knowledge paid off immediately after Rick’s playing days ended.

He was in his second season as an undergraduate assistant coach when Dick Sullivan, San Jose’s offensive line coach, resigned for personal reasons. Jack Elway, then the Spartans’ head coach, selected Rasnick as an interim full-time replacement. He was hired permanently the following season.

Before last season, Rasnick became offensive coordinator. He is still, at 29, the youngest in the nation to hold that position at a major college.

And his resume is looking more impressive all the time. In Rasnick’s first season as offensive coordinator, San Jose averaged 35.4 points a game and led the nation with an average of 338.1 passing yards.

“Rick and Ryan are both real smart football-wise,” Donna Rasnick said. “They’re real quick picking up plays. They’re not so good on their schoolwork, but give them a piece of chalk and they can really whip it out.”

Someday, perhaps, they will work at a chalkboard standing side by side as coaches.

“We joke about it, but the thought of coaching with my brother has crossed my mind,” Ryan said. “It would be great. A dream. We could keep it in the family. Rick could be the head coach, I could coach defense and my dad could retire and be our equipment manager.”

And mom?

“She could work with the cheerleaders,” Ryan said.