|No. 86, 81|
|Date of birth:||November 18, 1969|
|Place of birth:||Elizabeth, New Jersey|
|Height:||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|Weight:||190 lb (86 kg)|
|High school:||Wilkes-Barre (PA) Meyers|
|NFL draft:||1991 / Round: 4 / Pick: 100|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Stats at NFL.com|
Raghib Ramadian "Rocket" Ismail (born November 18, 1969) is a former professional player of American and Canadian football. A wide receiver and kick returner, he played in both the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the National Football League (NFL), after playing college football for the University of Notre Dame.
Ismail recorded two 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the NFL and was a CFL All-Star in 1991, as well as the Most Valuable Player of the 79th Grey Cup. In 2004, College Football News named Ismail the No. 75 player on its list of the Top 100 Greatest College Football Players of All-Time. He was also selected by Sports Illustrated to the 85-man roster of its all-20th Century college football team.
Ismail was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey and grew up in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and attended Elmer L. Meyers Junior/Senior High School. He first came to prominence as a receiver for the University of Notre Dame.
Notre Dame won the College Football National Championship in 1988, placed second in 1989 winning the 1990 Orange Bowl against Colorado, and again went to the 1991 Orange Bowl, losing to Colorado 10–9. In that game, he returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown that would have won the game for Notre Dame and stopped Colorado from winning a share of the National Championship; however, the play was called back on a controversial clipping penalty sealing the Irish defeat. After the 1990 season, Ismail finished second in the voting for the Heisman Trophy as the top college football player, losing to Brigham Young University Quarterback Ty Detmer.
During the 1989 regular season game against Michigan, Ismail returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice, and received numerous awards, including All-American status.
The projected first overall selection in the 1991 NFL Draft, Ismail decided at the last minute to sign a record contract with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League starting during their 1991 season. As a result, he was chosen by the Los Angeles Raiders with the 100th overall pick in the draft.
Track and field
Ismail was also a track star at the University of Notre Dame, where he ran the 100 meters in 10.2 seconds. He also competed in the 55 meters, with a personal best of 6.07 seconds. At the 1991 NCAA Indoor Track Championships, he finished 2nd in the 55-meter sprint.
|55 meters||6.07||West Lafayette, Indiana||February 8, 1991|
|100 meters||10.20||Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania||May 20, 1988|
Canadian Football League
It would have been difficult to offer Ismail enough money to join the CFL, but Bruce McNall, who with hockey player Wayne Gretzky and actor John Candy had recently purchased the Toronto Argonauts, tried. The Argonauts made Ismail a then unheard of offer for a CFL player: $18.2 million over four years. The average value of his full contract, $4.55 million per season, was more than the anticipated 2006 CFL salary cap of $3.8 million per team. The CFL had a salary cap in place since 1991, but the rules contained an exemption for a "marquee player" who would not count against the cap. Doug Flutie of the BC Lions was about to be paid a million dollars under the exemption, but Ismail's contract was more than anything North American football had ever seen, as his yearly salary was then the largest in Canadian or American football history.
Ismail joined the Argonauts in time for the 1991 season, and in his first game, returned a kick 73 yards on a reverse with Michael Clemons. Ismail ended his rookie season at the 79th Grey Cup. He recorded an 87-yard touchdown on a kickoff return and was named the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player as his Argonauts defeated the Calgary Stampeders 36–21. He came within fifty yards of breaking his teammate Clemons' franchise record for single-season kickoff return yardage, and made the 1991 All-Star team as a wide receiver, finishing runner-up to Jon Volpe for rookie of the year.
In 1992 Ismail broke Clemons' franchise record for single-season kick return yards. Ismail was unhappy in Canada as the Argonauts slumped to a 6–12 record, missing the playoffs. He was also remembered for his participation in a sideline brawl against the Stampeders where he stomped an opposing player's helmeted face. He later apologized on Speaker's Corner. With the huge contract around Toronto's neck and McNall facing increasing financial trouble, Ismail left the CFL, and, after the season, signed with the Los Angeles Raiders.
National Football League
Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
Ismail was going to be selected as the first overall pick in the 1991 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, until he decided to sign with the Toronto Argonauts. The Los Angeles Raiders selected him in the fourth round (100th overall), to own his rights in case he decided to return to the NFL.
In 1996 the Panthers, under Head coach Dom Capers, finished 12–4, but Ismail recorded a career-low 214 yards receiving, without a single touchdown. In 1997 he recorded 419 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
In 1998, he had a breakout year, registering 69 receptions for 1,024 yards and eight touchdowns, two yards short of doubling his previous career high.
On March 23, 1999, the Dallas Cowboys signed him as a free agent after outbidding other teams. After Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending injury in the fourth game of the season, Ismail became the team's leading wide receiver, recording a career-high 1,097 yards and six touchdowns.
In 2000, he missed the last six games after tearing the ACL in his right knee against the Philadelphia Eagles, during the tenth game of the season, finishing with only 350 receiving yards. In 2001, he missed two games after spraining the MCL in the same injured knee against the San Francisco 49ers.
On August 31, 2002, he was placed on the injured reserve list after suffering a herniated disk in his neck, due to a collision with teammate Dat Nguyen during training camp. He was released on February 26, 2003, in a salary cap move. He later announced his retirement in March.
In February 2008, Ismail appeared as a Pro in the third season of Spike TV's Pros Vs Joes.
On March 2010, it was announced that Ismail would be a correspondent on Ty Murray's Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge, interviewing the contestants about their lives outside the competition.
Slamball coaching record
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|Bouncers||2008||2||10||.167||6th||–||–||Did not qualify|
Ismail is the older brother of former Syracuse University and NFL wide receiver Qadry Ismail, nicknamed "The Missile", and former University of Texas-El Paso and New York Dragons receiver Sulaiman Ismail, nicknamed "The Bomb". His father, Ibrahim, died when he was 10; his mother, Fatma, is known as "The Launch Pad" because of her sons' nicknames of Rocket, Missile, and Bomb.
Ismail is now an inspirational speaker, and speaks at churches.
Ismail has been described as a "devout Christian".
- "#75 – Raghib Ismail". Top 100 Players of All-Time. College Football News. Archived from the original on 2006-01-08.
- "Team Of The Century". Sports Illustrated. August 16, 1999.
- Wiley, Ralph (September 25, 1989). "The Light And The Lightning". Sports Illustrated (Time Inc.). p. 4. Retrieved June 11, 2009.
- Anderson, Dave (November 1, 1990). "The Rocket: Caring, Shy, Compelling". New York Times: New York Edition. p. B13. Retrieved June 11, 2009.
- Jenkins, Sally (October 19, 1992). "Call Him Qadry". Sports Illustrated (Time Inc.). p. 1. Retrieved June 11, 2009.
- George, Thomas (April 22, 1991). "When Rocket Skips, Lineman Soars to Top". New York Times.
- "Rocket Ismail joins PBR telecast team". Associated Press. March 18, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2011.
- Rocket shows strong path
- Wiseman, Steve (November 7, 1996). "Rocket Takes Off, Gives Panthers Lift". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
- Player page at ESPN.com
- Official Notre Dame bio
- Raghib Ismail on the cover of Sports Illustrated (September 25, 1989 and February 25, 1991)