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3, 2, 1...Blast Off!
William F. Reed
July 29, 1991
A 73-yard run helped make Rocket Ismail's debut with the Toronto Argonauts a dazzling one
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July 29, 1991

3, 2, 1...blast Off!

A 73-yard run helped make Rocket Ismail's debut with the Toronto Argonauts a dazzling one

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So confident was McNall of a good show that he waived the TV blackout clause that goes into effect when a game isn't a sellout. "We're in the entertainment business, and I wanted as many people as possible to be exposed to what we're doing," McNall said.

Although Ismail spent most of the game serving as a decoy, his presence meant that demons, Smith and the other Argo weapons had an easier time finding holes and gaps for big gainers. Three passes were thrown Ismail's way. He made a nice leaping catch of one of them for 38 yards, and the other two were knocked away at the last moment by aggressive defenders. He returned four kickoffs for 88 yards and ran back a punt for 14. Every time he touched the ball, the noise level in the Skydome rose a notch.

But his finest moment came as a result of Argo coach Adam Rita's innovative decision to use Rocket as a punt blocker, of all things. On his first rush, Ismail was no factor. On his second, he came within a whisker of getting a block. And on his third, with Toronto holding a 17-0 lead in the second quarter, Ismail took a step toward the punter, then drifted back toward Clemons, who received the kick.

After taking two steps forward, demons handed off to Ismail on a reverse, and Rocket took off. Ignoring a tug at his face mask, he swerved up the middle, broke to the right and was off on a 73-yard gallop that ended when he was overtaken and knocked out of bounds at the two. "I'm disappointed that I didn't get to pay dirt," he said later. "That's a long field, man. I was out there thinking like, 'Whew.' But even then it was like my legs were not there. I just wasn't myself."

Not to worry. The jitters will disappear, but the jitterbugging should only get better. Ismail's potential is so vast that already some fans are worried that he won't stay in, Toronto for the duration of his contract and will instead join the Los Angeles Raiders, who own his NFL rights, after two seasons. Indeed, the Washington Post reported last week that he was already contemplating doing exactly that.

For now, however, Rocket will do his launching for the Argos, and the owners won't have to import their Hollywood pals for future dates. Rocket and his teammates can take it from here.

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