Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, who many project as the top pick in the April 21-22 NFL draft, will work out for NFL scouts on Tuesday.
The Notre Dame flanker, rusher and return specialist skipped the NFL scouting combine which ended with the last of some 460 invited draft hopefuls finishing their drills Monday. But, scouts said he's invited them to attend a workout on the Notre Dame campus.The scouts don't think Ismail, who gave up his last year of college eligibility to participate in the draft, hurt himself by missing the Hoosier Dome workouts.
"You would always like to believe that someone applying for a job would be willing to be interviewed and that's what this combine represents," said Dick Mansperger, director of college scouting for the Dallas Cowboys. "But, in his situation, Rocket has a legitimate on-campus commitment.
"He's competing for the track team and he is also driving toward a degree. It would have hurt him to come here for three days and we don't want to do that. He has set us a workout for us on Tuesday on campus. That shows he has good will."
"Since he's agreed to work out there isn't going to be any problem," said Dick Haley, director of player personnel for the Pittsburgh Steelers. "It's important that the teams get an accurate measurement of a player and how he does the various drills. It's easier when they do it here because the conditions are the same for everyone. But, I'm sure Rocket's workout will be well attended by NFL scouts."
Ismail, competing in track for the first time in more than two years, set a school record of 6.2 seconds in the 55-meter dash earlier this month. The old mark had been set by another former Irish football star - Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown, who is now with the Los Angeles Raiders.
Ismail's statistics in three football seasons are also impressive.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., has gained an average of 15.3 yards every time he's touched the football, accumulating 4,187 all-purpose yards on receptions, punt and kickoff returns. He's scored 15 touchdowns - four receiving, five rushing, five on kickoff returns and one on a punt return.
One of his top performances in 1990 came in Notre Dame's 29-20 victory over Miami when he rushed for 100 yards, returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and accumulated a career-high 268 all-purpose yards.
"Ismail may be one of the three or four greatest ever to play college football," said Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who saw Ismail account for 109 all-purpose yards before missing the second half of Penn State's 24-21 victory over the Irish.
Until recently, Ismail had insisted he was going to play his senior year at Notre Dame. In announcing his decision to enter the draft on Jan. 24, Ismail said the death of teammate Chris Zorich's mother made him rethink his decision.
"It made me feel that I wanted to do something for my mother and my family," said Ismail, a two-time All-American and runner-up for the 1990 Heisman Trophy.
He announced that he needed 30 credits to graduate and planned to return to Notre Dame in the offseason to complete work for his degree.
The New England Patriots, who finished 1-15 last season, have the first draft pick but have not said if they would use it to select Ismail or trade the selection to another team.