Now that the Rocket has landed north of the border, the question is how long will he stay?

Raghib "Rocket" Ismail has a clause in his contract with the Toronto Argonauts that will permit him leave after any of the four years for which he is signed.If Ismail stays in Canada for the full four years, team owner Bruce McNall has guaranteed him no less than $18 million. Should he go, the Los Angeles Raiders would have first crack at him. The Raiders picked Ismail in the fourth round of Sunday's NFL draft.

Sue Waks, McNall's chief financial officer, confirmed that Ismail could go to the NFL at any time, but expects him to remain with the Argos.

"Bruce is on the record as saying he wouldn't stand in Rocket's way but Rocket himself and Bruce have said that this is a four-year contract and we expect it to run that long," Waks said.

Asked if it would be possible for Ismail to finish his CFL commitment in November and immediately put on a Raider uniform, owner Al Davis said he didn't think so.

"But, like I said, I haven't seen the contract, so I'd only be guessing," Davis told the New York Daily News.

Ismail's got Team Rocket - lawyers, agents and marketing experts - offering him advice, but when the time came to make the biggest decision of his life, he listened to his heart . . . and his mother.

"When he said he was going to go to Canada, I said, `Honey, get on that freedom train and let's go,' " Fatma Ismail said at a SkyDome news conference Tuesday to introduce her Toronto Argonaut son to the media.

Ismail and his mother not only grabbed a freedom train, they caught a big-buck express to the CFL.

The 21-year-old Notre Dame junior could earn as much as $26.2 million under terms of the four-year contract he signed Saturday.

The decision to turn down the NFL - where he figured to be the No. 1 overall draft pick - had as much to do with respect as it did with bags full of money.

"When I had meetings with whoever (in the NFL), it was like they were doing me a favor," Ismail said of negotiating sessions with the New England Patriots, who had the first draft pick, and Dallas Cowboys, who traded for it.

"My initial feeling was like I was being treated like an immature child instead of a young man who was coming into a business and was willing to understand and put forth the work that was needed."

He found the treatment he wanted from McNall.

"The attitude of the people involved was the key and I feel that if the attitude is good then that's where I wanted to go."

McNall said it was easy to afford Ismail a high degree of respect.

"In all honesty, when we began chasing the idea (of signing Ismail), I didn't know if it was really a possibility," McNall said.

"But after I met Rocket and he came to LA, I realized that he wasn't just a football player as great as he is, but that he had every other element I was looking for in someone to be involved with in business."

Despite the staggering amount of money he will earn - more than any other NFL or CFL player has ever earned - Ismail kept coming back to respect.

"As far as money is concerned, either way ($18 million with Toronto or a reported $15 million from Dallas) it wasn't going to turn out bad," he said. "I was trying to let people know there were other things that were going to go along with my decision and things like attitude and the way I was treated were those things.

"My gut feeling was that I couldn't pass it up. They made me feel real good and for me, to be treated the way I treat people is just the best feeling I could get."