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Home / Sports News / At Notre Dame, Rocket Ismail was the country’s most exciting football player, and now at 48 he’s proud to have his son

At Notre Dame, Rocket Ismail was the country’s most exciting football player, and now at 48 he’s proud to have his son

Like his dad, the youngster also plays wide receiver, returns kicks, and always stresses how elite his dad was.

By Arnie Leshin 
Arnie Leshin

It was his final collegiate football game and the Rocket wanted to have a big night in the packed Orange Bowl. His Notre Dame team had lost only once, but if it could turn back Colorado in Miami, it would deliver the 1991 national championship to Georgia Tech.

The Buffalos and the Ramblin’ Wrecks were both undefeated, but Tech had already played its bowl game, and if the Irish would defeat Colorado, it would bring Tech the NCAA title. This was before the BCC was born, so if the Buffalos won, they would share the championship with Tech.

But Raghib Ramadian Ismail had his own problems. Blessed with 4.0 speed, he was the most exciting player in the country. But Colorado did its homework and kept the apply named “Rocket” in check. Every time he tried to break one, the Buffalos would respond.

So now it was late in the fourth quarter, Colorado had made a clutch 40-yard field goal to grab a 10-9 lead. Now, with time running down, it kicked off and made a mistake by sending it Ismail’s way. He wanted to break one badly, and was on his way when he sped to midfield and heard the whistle blow.

Offense with an illegal block, 15-yard penalty, one minute to go in the contest, and now the Buffalos took over with a first down at the Notre Dame 40 and ran out the clock.

No one argued about the call, not even the Irish, although the Colorado faithful sitting on that side of the field were clearly heard calling out “Penalty on the offense.”

Ismail was on his way until the whistle sounded. At midfield, he was moving at full speed, but the penalty forced him to stop and fire the ball to the ground.

It was the one of the few times all season that the All-America who was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, failed to reach the end zone, whether as one of the best wide receivers in the land or via a kickoff or punt return. Once he raced past the defense, he was gone.

He was the “Rocket”, his younger brother, Quadry, played at Syracuse and was tagged the “Missile.” His cousin, Ripley, also played for the Orange, and finished his senior season as one of the top receivers in the country. But no nickname.

So now the spotlight is on his no nickname son Raghib. He’s officially Ismail, Junior, had played one season for Cisco Junior College in Texas, and caught 48 passes for 454 yards and four touchdowns.

He had wanted to attend TCU straight out of high school, but because his grades were not good, he got down to business with home tutoring and received his associates degree, followed by an offer from Northern Colorado.

But when he still hadn’t signed a national letter of intent, he received a phone call from University of Wyoming receivers coach Mike Grant and was invited to check out the campus as well as the athletic facilities.

“I went,” he said, “and I loved it there. The facilities were beautiful, the academic support was beautiful, every thing was. Plus, they are building a football program, obviously coming off the Josh Allen era, so I figured this would be the right place to be.”

At 6-foot, 180 pounds, he will be a junior and figures so far to be positioned at slot back. Currently, he’s been limited with a ligament hands injury, but said he’s been able to catch and expects to be fully cleared Thursday.

“My dad and my mom never brought up Notre Dame,” Ismail said, “and they liked my choice of Wyoming,”

But he’s he, and the Rocket is the Rocket. He’s doesn’t doubt that.

“Look” he said, my dad ran a 4.0, a 4-1, so I’m trying to work my way up to that. But he tells me all the time that I’m two times better as a receiver than he was. Coming from him helps boost my confidence, and I go on the field expecting to do well, no fear in my heart, ready to go.”

The Rocket played eight years in the NFL for three different teams and he played two seasons in the Canadian League. And his son hopes to follow the same path, perhaps as the junior Rocket.

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