The drills have paid off. Rocket's first stage—his explosion from the blocks—is breathtaking. Some would say a little too breathtaking. His 6.07 came in the prelims of the Central Collegiate Conference Championships, and when he managed only 6.21 and 6.25 in the semis and final, it was widely assumed in track circles that he had caught a "flier"—that he had anticipated rather than responded to the gun. Videotapes of the race were circulated, and though the consensus seems to be that the time will stand, Ismail had something to prove.
Indoors, at least, they are now believers. However, as Millar well knows, the true test comes outdoors—over the standard 100-meter distance. "What happens between 60 and 100 is different," says Millar. "That's where fatigue comes in. I'm not sure how much he'll slow down."
Probably not as much as some other football players who have sprinted. At 5'10", 175 pounds, he is much less heavily muscled than most of his predecessors. Ismail's best 100-meter time remains the 10.57 he ran the summer before he entered Notre Dame. When he was told that Millar had named 10.10, just .18 off the world record, as a reasonable target for him, Ismail's eyes widened.
Of course, everything may change when Ismail signs with whichever NFL team drafts him on April 21. For now, though, he is planning to run in the NCAA Outdoor Championships, which begin on May 29.
The Athletics Congress has quietly petitioned the International Amateur Athletic Federation to allow athletes who are professionals in other sports to compete in track and field. The IAAF will vote on that request in late August, at the World Championships in Tokyo. So Ismail's career may not have to end this spring, which would be great news not just for Rocket but also for the whole sport.