Sept. 11, 2002

by Kevin Herrity

With the Notre Dame-Michigan game only three days away, had the opportunity to sit down with one of the all-time Irish greats, flanker Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, to get his thoughts on the rivalry with the Wolverines, the current Notre Dame team and his status with the Dallas Cowboys. Here’s what he had to say:

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – In 1989, a flanker by the name of Raghib “Rocket” Ismail single-handedly defeated the University of Michigan. Ismail had two kickoff returns for touchdowns as the University of Notre Dame defeated the Wolverines, 24-19 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“Rocket” is back on the Notre Dame campus this week to see the Irish take on Michigan for the 30th time in series history. Ismail, who is a key wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, injured his neck in the preseason, but only two weeks out of surgery, he felt well enough to comment on his health.

“The first check-up went well,” he said. “The doctor took me out of the stiff collar and put me in a soft collar and told me that in three weeks I will be able to start working out again.”

The Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry is one of the biggest in college football and “Rocket” was not only able to start his college career against Michigan, but also have much success against the Wolverines.

“My first start was a night game and I was totally petrified even though I know I had prepared myself well all throughout the summer and the week leading up to the game,” Ismail recalled. “It is definitely always a big game to me. When this week comes around, and I think back to all the great games I played in against Michigan, it gets me really excited.”

The Irish come into this year’s game with Michigan sporting a 2-0 record for the first time since 1996. Still, the team continues to adjust to the new offensive scheme installed by first-year head coach Tyrone Willingham. However, Ismail did not seem too concerned about that after watching the team practice on Wednesday.

“I think all the offense has to do is be patient,” he said. “They can’t succumb to the media’s constant nagging about the struggles of the offense and start to press themselves. Experience tells me that the more you press trying to make something happen, the harder it is to achieve what you want to do. This team practices very hard and they are very disciplined.

“We know how good this offense is,” Ismail continued. “All they have to do is be patient, and do not try and do more than what they are capable of doing. If everyone is accountable and knows what their assignments are, they will be just fine.”

This year’s Notre Dame-Michigan game will mark the 163rd consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium. The contest kicks off at 1:30 p.m. (EST), and it will be televised nationally on NBC.

— ND —