On Monday, the College Football Hall of Fame did something that was long, long overdue. They named Raghib “The Rocket” Ismail to the class of 2019 College Football Hall of Fame class. It’s. About. Damn. Time. The fact that The Rocket was not in the College Football Hall of Fame after all of these years was just plain silly and honestly inexplicable.
The Rocket was, simply put, one of the most electrifying players in college football history. In many ways, he was a player well before his time as well. Notre Dame used The Rocket in so many ways during his career, but can you imagine what he would have done in these modern offenses with all of the wide receiver screens, jet sweeps, etc? His already impressive numbers would have been jaw dropping.
As is The Rocket was an integral part of Notre Dame’s last national championship team in 1988 as a true freshman. From there, his career really took off earning consensus All-American honors in 1989 and the unanimous All-American honors in 1990. During the 1990 season he was also named Walter Camp Player of the Year but was famously robbed of the Heisman Trophy because Ty Detmer played in a video game offense and put up a bunch of inflated stats against terrible competition.
Here are just a few of the Notre Dame and NCAA Records that the Rocket still holds:
- Notre Dame’s career average yard per reception: 22
- Notre Dame’s career kickoff returns for touchdowns: 5
- Only player in NCAA history with 2 kick returns for touchdowns in the same game twice
- One of just two Notre Dame players to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a career
Why it took this long for Rocket Ismail to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is still unfathomable to me. By modern days stats his numbers might not jump off the page, but at the time that he played the game, players simply did not do what he did. He was a threat to score literally every single time he touched the ball. He was a player that had to be scheme around specifically week in and week out. He could score out the backfield as a running back, he could get behind any defense, and he was a threat to take any kick or punt back for six that he got his hands on.
Rocket was so dangerous that most teams would try to kick away from him to minimize the damage. Some coaches, like Bo Schembechler, never did learn their lesson though. Bo infamously kicked off to Rocket in 1989 a second time after he had already taken one to the house. It didn’t work out all that well for Michigan.
With Rocket’s induction into the Hall of Fame, Notre Dame now has 47 former players and 6 former coaches. No other program has more players included as Notre Dame.
We’ll have some more on Rocket’s induction into the Hall of Fame since both Greg and I are huge Rocket fans whose early Notre Dame fandom can be very directly related to the excitement that #25 brought to Notre Dame in the late 80’s and 90’s.