Finally! Notre Dame Legend Rocket Ismail Named to Hall of Fame

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.

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  1. The Irish get snubbed in final rankings. Fall to 5th in both polls . Ohio State jumped to 3rd after beating lousy Washington in Rose bowl. Disgusting

    1. Polls are fictional. We are a First place obsessed nation. If you finish 2nd you are are a loser. The only place where First , second and third are respectable is the Olympics.

  2. Met Rockets Mother after Notre Dame / Troy game at Coliseum. Was She ever excitable. He was fun to watch. One of our new speedsters will emerge this year and remind of Raghib.

  3. ROCKET was the most exciting player in ND HISTORY!! EVERY GAME he played in was special, the speed he had was unmatched!! As a freshman his impact on the 88 title team was truly the difference in big games!! As a RB, WR, or Returner he was a threat any and every time he touched the ball!! His speed and explosiveness are still the measuring stick for every player who comes to ND today, some 29 years after his last game!! So many great and proud memories from RAGHIB ISMAIL aka ‘ THE ROCKET ‘ !! It’s about time he’s in the College Football Hall Of Fame, he was in a class by himself!!!!!

    1. Indeed!
      The two kick-off returns versus Michigan were among my favorite memories of Rocket.
      I was fortunate enough to see him live, and like I saw with Walter Payton and Michael Jordan, when you see such great athletes live, you realize more clearly that they are the best athletes in the game. But the one return I’ll remember most was the one a ref negated in the bowl game, the return that would have beaten Colorado(?).
      After the ref saw he’d broken open for the TD, he threw his flag a good thirty five yards later and called a phantom clip that he claimed was at the point of reception/return.
      Obviously anti-ND bias, AGAIN, Burgy!

  4. 62 years old and he still is one of my favorite all time Notredame player. The rocket impacted the game in so many ways offense special teams running back receiver.zHoltz was a master at moving him around in the offense. Should have won the Heisman imho. Congratulations rocket on your hall of fame induction.

  5. He was clearly one of the most impactful college players of all time. Two plays standout for me that I saw him make actually from the running back position. In a close game away at Tennessee in 1990, he made about a 45 yard TD run where he absolutely ran by everyone good angle that the more than three defenders had on him late in the game that sealed the victory. Against Pitt in 1989 he ran for about a 50 yard TD and just easily out sprint a great defensive back who had a perfect angle and the sideline working for him but failed to even get a whiff on Rocket.

  6. When your in a bar in denver and everybody is screaming
    dont punt he ball to him..just kick it out of bounds..
    You know you are watching amazing talent..still
    cant find that clip..he was one my favs ND players
    and holtz could get a talent like that to South Bend.. Tim Brown
    JB and guys like can be done…good for him
    was a little suprised myself took this long..

  7. Congratulations, Rocket- well deserved and about time!
    Heard all week that ND “didn’t belong” because they lost to Clemson by 27.
    Wondering how many sports anal-ists will say Bama didn’t belong because they lost to Clemson by 28?

    1. Exactly, Michael! I wonder how Herbstreit and the other ESPN “experts” are looking at how their pet team got schooled by Clemson. If my math is right, the Irish gave up fewer points… So, will ESPN’s sports announcers be saying Alabama shouldn’t be in the playoffs next year? They will use the same criteria critics did against ND right? So if a team loses one game, they should get in over an undefeated Alabama team? Just using the same argument they’ve been using against ND… Best thing was I bet Clemson all the way and the over. The game against the Irish told me everything I needed to know about Clemson. Knew that Alabama couldn’t hang with them. Just wish the Irish had gotten to play Alabama in the first game and then they would have gotten to the championship game. Man! I love this stuff! Irish will be back next year!

    2. MTA: I also wonder about that. Don’t hold your breath though – neither hypocrites nor the legions of double standard guys ever seem to ask themselves those kinds of questions.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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