Former Irish WR, returner Raghib 'Rocket' Ismail named to College Football Hall of Fame

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Irish fans will see a familiar face moments before Monday’s College Football Playoff Final kicks off.

That will be former Notre Dame receiver and return specialist Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, who on Monday was selected to be an inductee in the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019. He will first be honored by participating in the championship game’s coin toss with fellow 2019 inducted Patrick Willis, a former Ole Miss star.

ESPN will broadcast the contest between No. 1 Alabama (14-0) and No. 2 Clemson (14-0), which is slated to begin at 8 p.m. EST.

Ismail will be inducted at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner in New York City on Dec. 10, 2019. According to ND’s website, Ismail will be commemorated via an on-campus salute during one of ND’s 2019 home football games. He’s the 47th former Irish player to garner the honor, the most for a school by a wide margin. USC holds second place with 32. 

The “Rocket” sends his thanks to the #NDFamily after becoming @NDFootball's 5️⃣3️⃣rd honoree in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Congratulations, @iamrocketismail!

— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) January 7, 2019

“We are extremely proud to announce the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Class,” said Archie Manning, NFF Chairman and a 1989 College Football Hall of Famer from Ole Miss. “Each of these men has established himself among the absolute best to have ever played or coaches the game, and we look forward to immortalizing their incredible accomplishments. The Class will be part of the momentous year as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football this season.”

Since Tim Brown captured ND’s seventh Heisman, in 1987, Ismail, a two-time First Team All-American, has been the closest Irish player to capture the award. Ismail finished runner-up behind Ty Detmer in the 1990 race, trailing the BYU quarterback by 305 voting points. Manti Te’o’s fell to Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel for the 2012 Heisman Trophy by 325 voting points.

Congratulations on your induction to the College Football Hall of Fame, @iamrocketismail! @ToddLyght and Tim Brown couldn’t be any more proud of

— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) January 7, 2019

Playing three years under Lou Holtz (1988-90), Ismail became one of two Irish players to register over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in a career. He turned 131 career carries into 1,015 yards and five touchdowns, while catching 71 career passes for 1,565 yards and four touchdowns. He was a member of the ’88 championship team.

Ismail holds the record for the most kickoff return touchdowns across an ND career with five. He also returned a punt for a touchdown. Ismail led the NCAA in kickoff return average (36.1) as a freshman in 1988. His 22 yards per reception also remains an Irish record. He was awarded the 1990 Walter Camp Player of the Year and the Sporting News’ College Player of the Year.

An emotional moment for a deserving man.@NDFootball alum @iamrocketismail -- the newest member of the College Football Hall of Fame -- stopped by SportsCenter to talk about the remarkable

— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) January 8, 2019

In 1989, Ismail captured consensus All-American status as a kick returner. He earned unanimous honors the following season as a receiver and kick returner. The Wilkes-Barre, Pa. native now lives in Dallas as a motivational speaker. Ismail, 49, was also an All-America track star for the Irish.

Joining Ismail is Florida State defensive back Terrell Buckley, Oklahoma defensive back Rickey Dixon, John Carroll linebacker London Fletcher, Texas A&M defensive lineman Jacob Green, North Carolina State receiver Torry Holt, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, Arizona State quarterback Jake Plummer, USC defensive back Troy Polamalu, Wisconsin offensive lineman Joe Thomas, Michigan State running back Lorenzo White, Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis and Texas quarterback Vince Young.

Former coaches Dennis Erickson and Joe Taylor were also named to the College Football Hall of Fame. Six former Irish coaches have earned the honor.

Former Notre Dame football player Raghib "Rocket" Ismail was named to the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame class on Monday.