NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, one of the most electrifying players in college football history, has been named to the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
Ismail becomes the 47th former Notre Dame player — and the third in the last five years, joining end Thom Gatewood in 2015 and linebacker Bob Crable in 2017 — to join the College Football Hall of Fame. With 47 former players and six former coaches selected, Notre Dame boasts more honorees than any other school in the country.
Ismail is part of the 2019 class that includes 13 players and two coaches. He will be inducted Dec. 10, 2019, at the 62nd NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City. Ismail will be recognized during an on-campus salute at a Notre Dame home football game in 2019. His accomplishments will be forever immortalized at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
A two-time First Team All-American, Ismail earned consensus honors in 1989 (kick returner) and unanimous laurels in 1990 (wide receiver/kick returner). The 1990 Walter Camp Player of the Year, he was also named The Sporting News’ College Player of the Year and finished as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
The Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, native led the Irish to an undefeated national championship season in 1988 that was capped by a win in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl. Ismail also guided Notre Dame to two Orange Bowl berths, claiming MVP honors in the 1990 edition after he led both teams in rushing in a 21-6 win over Colorado. The only college football player among the finalists for the 1990 Sullivan Award as the best amateur athlete in the nation, he guided the Irish to top six finishes all three seasons of his career and an overall record of 33-4.
Few in the game’s history can match Ismail’s versatility. One of only two Irish players to amass more than 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a career, his 22 yards per reception average remain a school record. His five kickoff returns for a touchdown are a Notre Dame record, and he remains the only player in NCAA history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in two games. In 1988, Ismail led the NCAA after averaging 36.1 yards per kickoff return, and his six career returns for touchdowns (five kickoffs, one punt) are tied for a Notre Dame record. He ranks sixth in Irish annals with 4,187 career all-purpose yards, 268 of which came in an upset of No. 2 Miami (FL) in 1990 after he rushed for 100 yards and returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. While with the Irish, Ismail played for College Football Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz and alongside Hall of Famer Chris Zorich.
Projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 1991 NFL Draft, Ismail instead signed with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. He played two seasons for Toronto, leading them to a Grey Cup Championship in 1991 and taking home the game’s MVP honors. The Los Angeles Raiders selected Ismail in the fourth round of the 1991 NFL Draft to own his rights, and he returned to play in the NFL for the Raiders (1993-95), Carolina Panthers (1996-98) and Dallas Cowboys (1999-2001).
A two-sport athlete, Ismail was also an All-America track star at Notre Dame. A member of Sports Illustrated’s All-20th Century College Football Team, he was inducted into the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame in 2003. He was also a contributor to ESPN’s “College GameDay” for two seasons.
Ismail now lives in Dallas where he serves as a motivational speaker while visiting military bases throughout the state of Texas.
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