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125 Project: Rocket’s Return That Wasn’t

Dec 20, 2012, 11:21 AM EST

Everyone knows that Raghib “Rocket” Ismail was one of the most electrifying players to ever put on the gold helmet. If you’ve ever had a chance to hear Rocket at a Notre Dame pep rally, you are also probably aware of how animated he is as a speaker (ex. USC 2009 or Utah 2010).

Earlier this fall, Rocket sat down with Fighting Irish Digital Media in their new studio at the Joyce Center. Among the topics that he spoke about was the 1991 Orange Bowl, and the infamous punt return that was wiped away by a questionable clipping penalty.

That play is featured as today’s “Strong and True” moment (#112) on the 125 years of Notre Dame football website. The moments are numbered in the order they are released, not based on which are “greatest” or “most significant.”

However, in my opinion, today’s video is one of the best we have had all season, not only due to Rocket’s great recollection of a play that happened nearly 22 years ago, but also because of his emotion in talking about a moment that had a valuable impact on his life.

It’s one thing to see him as a passionate speaker when rallying thousands of cheering fans, but it’s something unique to watch him during a one-on-one interview.

Check out the video below. In particular, it’s the last thirty seconds or so that stand out. He says:

I didn’t understand what it took to really be a champion, at that time in my life. But since then, I’ve come to understand that that moment was very valuable for me.

And in your life, there’s going to be adversity, especially when you desire to do great things. But make up in your mind right now, that come hell or high water, all the people that say it’s impossible, including yourself – and that try to convince you that it can’t – you make up in your mind right now, that you can – and by God’s grace, you will.

Visit for more on this game, as well as other moments from the 125 project.

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