On second thought...

Thursday January 3rd, 2008

The most exciting college football player of the last 30 years wore No. 25, though often times the number on that jersey was reduced to a blur.

Raghib Ismail, Notre Dame's speed demon, earned one-name status in the late '80s like Bo,Deion and Magic. If you were in a college football stadium between 1988 to 1990, you knew when the Rocket took the field. He may not have been the best player on those immensely talented Lou Holtz teams, but he was the one you could not take your eyes off.

I was in Neyland Stadium on Nov. 10, 1990, when No. 1 Notre Dame was facing No. 10 Tennessee in front of 100,000 Orange-clad fans. Every kickoff, every punt, every time the Rocket went into the backfield, there was a buzz in the crowd -- nervous anticipation of what might happen if he touched the ball. A failed Rocket reverse in the second quarter brought about an explosion of noise I've never heard before or since at a stadium. His blazing sprint down the sidelines in the fourth quarter for the winning score only built his legend. To see him live was an experience. As a receiver, running back, punt returner and kick returner, there was no player more feared by opponents and revered by Irish fans. He was the guy on the team, an SI coverboy as a sophomore and Heisman runner-up as a junior. Ismail's three-year college career, which saw the Irish ranked No. 1 at some point all three years, was filled with pulsating moments.

Don't believe me? Just watch.

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