Rocket Ismail Vs. Golden Tate: Who Left Notre Dame As The Bigger Legend?

Dan Scofield@BleedingGoldAnalyst IDecember 19, 2009

Every decade or so, football programs receive a special physical specimen in the form of a play-making, game-breaking, and history-changing player.

In the late 80s, South Bend was blessed with one of these gifts in Rocket Ismail.

As a freshman, The "Rocket" brought along with him world-class speed, adding the final piece to the puzzle in order to lead the Fighting Irish to a national championship under Lou Holtz in 1988.

On top of his ring, Ismail was named a two-time All-American before leaving for the CFL in '90.

The "Rocket" not only changed the face of Notre Dame football due to his flashy moves and home-run threat ability, but he has gone down in history as one of the most exciting players ever to play on a college field.

In 2007, South Bend was again given a hidden gem alongside No. 1 recruit Jimmy Clausen. Golden Tate entered the program as an athlete with most of his experience coming from the backfield in high school.

Although Charlie Weis' teams, and Tate's, failed to succeed, that didn't hold back him back from making a name for himself.

Entering his name into the NFL draft after three seasons under Weis, Tate left Notre Dame with numerous receiving records, being selected as an unanimous first-team All-American in '09.

When the Irish fans hear the words "play-making", "impact", and "electrifying", a few names come to mind. However, two stick out more than any others.

Who was the biggest playmaker and the better player at Notre Dame?


Between the two legends, Tate is clearly the better wide receiver.

Taking that statement to another level, Tate leaves South Bend as the best receiver to ever wear the blue and gold. That includes Heisman-winner, Tim Brown.

When asked to compare himself to Tate, Ismail replied, “He’s so far ahead of me, it’s not even funny."

Although Ismail was always a threat downfield and was the master of jaw-dropping touchdowns, his hands, route-running, and numbers couldn't compare to those of Tate. 

During his career with Notre Dame, Ismail had only three games with 100 or more receiving yards. In fact, he only hauled in 71 receptions along with four receiving touchdowns during his three spectacular seasons-something that might shock some.

On the other hand, by the end of his final year in South Bend, Tate had put together 15 games in which he gained at least 100 yards through the air. With Michael Floyd lined up opposite him, these numbers look even more impressive considering how many threats Jimmy Clausen had to choose from.

Add that stat to 30 receiving touchdowns and a Biletnikof trophy, and you have the best receiver to ever catch a football in "The House That Rockne Built".



Many argued that if Tate was kept in the backfield, where he played at his hometown in Tennessee, he may have been one of the most lethal weapons to ever play behind the line of scrimmage.

However, his rushing skills were greatly underused during his three years at South Bend, only finding occasional carries in '09, mostly coming from the "Lepracat" formation. Despite that, Tate managed a 7.4 yard per carry average in his last season, good for 186 yards and two scores.

Unlike Tate, Ismail made a living from working in the Irish backfield under Lou Holtz.

During his short, yet stunning, career, "Rocket" averaged 15.3 yards per touch.



Anointing either of these legends with the upperhand is a difficult task.

Taking a look at the numbers, it might become clearer.

Tate: 4,130 all-purpose yards, 30 touchdowns.

Ismail: 4,137 all-purpose yards, 15 touchdowns.

Already knowing the stats, Ismail had a more detailed answer.

“Plus, he has a legendary name—a guy named Golden playing at Notre Dame. I’m on that bandwagon.”

However, numbers speak for themselves. Although Ismail played on a much better team, won a national championship, and had a fantastic professional career, Tate will be remembered as the better football player.

After another 6-6 season, any Irish fan would be able to tell you who the real MVP on this year's team was. That award, like the Biletnikof, goes to Tate-and with ease.

In regards to the biggest impact and exciting player, Ismail may go down in history as the most electrifying player in college football history.

Along with Joe Paterno and Bo Schembechler, most of the nation will agree.

In what may be the greatest evidence to support that statement, Notre Dame won the first 23 games in which Ismail played in. Combine that with the fact that he game-breaker's scoring plays averaged 62 yards, and you may have found the most impactful player in college football history.



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