Fatma Ismail can read clues as well as her son can read the holes in a defense.
Even before the announcement came, she had a feeling her son, Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, did not win the Heisman Trophy."I was just waiting for them to announce Ty Detmer's name," Fatma Ismail said, her voice hinting a touch of indignation. "The CBS announcer already gave me the clue. He said my son was a very exciting player but HE voted for Ty Detmer. Uh-huh," she said, explaining she assumed the announcer of the network airing the telecast wouldn't advertise making a wrong choice.
She was right.
Fatma Ismail isn't mother of the 56th Heisman Trophy winner. Her son, Notre Dame's flashy flanker-returner, finished second to Brigham Young quarterback Ty Detmer by 305 points in a vote not nearly as close as had been projected.
At the Downtown Athletic Club, home of the most heralded honor in college sports, the Heisman season ended with that split-second announcement. In less time than he takes to return a kickoff, Ismail was flooded with relief.
"Definitely, it's over," he said.
Third-place finisher Eric Bieniemy, a Colorado running back who didn't expect to win, grinned as if the whole thing was a big kick.
"Just here for the ride," he grinned, as he does often. "Finishing third ain't bad. I'm excited to meet all the ballplayers, be in New York City. I know me and this man," he gestured his head toward Ismail, "are meeting again real soon. . . . We joke about it."
Notre Dame and Colorado play each other in the Jan. 1 Orange Bowl in a game that could determine the national title.
Virginia quarterback Shawn Moore, who finished fourth, smiled more wistfully when asked his feeling just before the envelope was opened.
"Anticipation for the announcement," he said. "The last couple weeks . . ." he trailed off, referring to Virginia's losses and his thumb injury, "but I was optimistic."
Moore first started to lose a grip on the trophy when Georgia Tech rallied for a 41-38 victory that knocked his Cavaliers out of the No. 1 ranking. Despite passing for more than 300 yards that game, Moore's biggest boost had been that he was the leader of the nation's top-ranked club. When the team lost, he also lost his lead over Detmer and Ismail.
Whatever chance he had of a comeback was erased two weeks ago when the Cavaliers were upset 35-30 by Maryland and Moore barely passed for a 100 yards before being injured late in the game.
Moore has had a cast and a sling since the Maryland game but said he expects to be ready for the Sugar Bowl against Tennessee.
He and Bieniemy are seniors and Ismail is a junior. Ismail said he will be back at Notre Dame regardless of Coach Lou Holtz's decision on returning.
Ismail, knowing the implication of that decision on the 1991 Heisman picture, said "all of this is going to be over for a while." He did add in his quiet way, "definitely I wanted to win."
"I don't think anything really is too much for my son," Fatma Ismail said, adding, "I expect to be doing this again."
She had more than one reason for saying this. She has two other sons: Syracuse kickoff returner Qadry is known as "The Missile," and high school senior Sulaiman is nicknamed "The Bomb."
No wonder she is called "the Launching Pad."
"My son to me is a Heisman Trophy," she said of her eldest. "The Heisman Trophy is shaped like my son. I've never seen a quarterback with that kind of form."
"I never saw him play this year, but I saw some highlights and I've seen his statistics. That's good enough for me," said Ismail, another junior who would have been Notre Dame's eighth Heisman winner.
Detmer won in every region of the country and Ismail finished second in all but the Southwest, where he was edged out by Bieniemy.