Tag Archives: grey cup mvp

Ismail, Raghib ‘Rocket’ (2)

Cards: Fleer 1996, All World Promo 1991, Classic 1991, Atomic 2001
Acquired: TTM, 2018
Sent: 1/2       Received: 1/8   (6 days)
See Also: Rocket Ismail

Shortly after attending one of the Dallas Cowboys Rally Days where I met Rocket and got his autograph on a handful of cards, he started signing TTM again. I thought initially, “Oh well,” but knew I needed to double back to him to get a few more cards signed. So rolling over to 2018, what better way to kick it off by getting Rocket again as my first autograph of the year?

These cards really offer a cross section of his career starting at Notre Dame on this Classic 1991 promo card. Hand it to Classic trying to be edgy out of the gate, but the name line feels right aligned because the weight is tied to WR. I also wasn’t too big a fan of the brushed granite look, but it beats the cheetah pattern they later used. Overall, it’s a great photo of Rocket and there were quite a few of them to choose from.

From there we move on to the terrible All World CFL series, which tries to emulate the ProSet 1989 design by just angling the lines. There’s also the terrible color choices as the red and blue just feel like they clash a bit too much. It does not help that the Argonaut helmet just sort of -sits there arbitrarily on the canvas. As a promo however it sells what it is: The first set to have Ismail in his professional debut threads.

After his time in the CFL, Rocket jumped back to the NFL courtesy of the Los Angeles Raiders. It seemed to make sense. I mean the only other place with as bright stars and marketing would be Dallas, right? I liked this card. Fleer 1995 was all.. over.. the.. place.. design wise from team to team. It embodied everything I liked and hated in the 1990s sets as the companies started really embracing Photoshop. This one for example has a very unnecessary grain. I like the fearlessness of the design on the front, but it is a bit too much.

After his time with the Raiders, a stop in Dallas was next. It took me a while to come around to the sets of the early 2000s as I didn’t collect any while I was on my football hiatus. Among them I liked the die cut Atomic. I have a soft spot for gimmicky cards, and these certainly look better once you see one.

Garcia, Jeff

poff00 jgarcia
Cards: Playoff Contenders 2000, TNT UFL 2011
Acquired: TTM 2015, C/o The St. Louis Rams
Sent: 11/10/15   Received: 1/9/16   (60 days)
Failure: TTM 2012, C/o The Houston Texans. TTM 2014, C/o Home

What a long, windy road it has been for Jeff Garcia.  The righthanded quarterback played for San Jose State from 1991 to 1993.  In 30 career games for the Spartans, Jeff had 6545 yards on 887 attempts, and 48 TD throws. He joined the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL in 1994 backing up legendary Doug Flutie.  He’d get to show his stuff in 1995 after Doug got injured and performed admirably for the team. Jeff always demonstrated this uncanny ability to buy time with his feet. The Stampeders became so comfortable with Garcia at QB, they let Flutie leave and sign with the Argos. Jeff played for Calgary through the 1998 season winning the 86th Grey Cup and the MVP award. Afterwards Garcia decided to take another shot at the NFL- signing with the San Fransisco 49ers.

With the 49ers Jeff was in a similar situation backing up Hall of Famer Steve Young at quarterback. Again, just like in Calgary, Jeff was thrust into the lineup when Steve was injured in 1999. People sort of (and still do) muse about how badly CFL talent translates to the NFL, but Jeff was the exception. He’d go on to earn 3 Pro Bowl appearances in 5 seasons. After being released in 2004, Jeff began the journeyman phase of his career.  He then had stops in Cleveland (2004), Detroit (2005), and Philadelphia (2006) where he led them to a division title in relief of injured Donovan McNabb. In 2007 Garcia was signed by the Buccaneers earning his 4th career Pro Bowl appearance. While playing for the Bucs, he returned them to a level of respectability posting a 14-10 record for the team. He’d be cut by the Bucs and sign with the Raiders for 2009. Frustrated with his role in mentoring Jamarcus Russell, he asked for his release. Garcia was later signed as an insurance, back with the Eagles for roughly two weeks.

tntufl11 jgarciaUnable to find a team for 2010 but still wanting to play, Jeff took a shot with the United Football League. The league was banking on pulling in star power and an extended NFL lockout the following season to help boost their bottom line.  Jeff signed with the Omaha Nighthawks, leading the team to an exciting 27-26 opening day victory over the Hartford Colonials, and the following week a 20-17 win over the Sacramento Mountain Lions.  For his efforts Garcia earned UFL Player of the Week Honors for his comeback victories. The Nighthawks were a pleasant surprise for the league and sold out recently renovated Rentschler Stadium every week of the season.  He did not return to the UFL for 2011.

After an injury to starter Matt Schaub, and then later backup Matt Leinart, Jeff was signed by the Houston Texans along with Jake Delhomme to back up TJ Yates for the final 2 contests of the 2011 NFL season, but did not see any action. As late as 2013 Garcia claimed that he still has the heart and the desire to play.  I tried to get his autograph at that time through the Texans, but I was unable to land him. I then found another address for him in California, and shot out some customs, but again was unable to get his autograph there.

Jeff was signed to be on the advisory board of the ‘New USFL’ and has expressed an interest in working with quarterbacks refining their mechanics. Just like that Jeff was already back in the CFL as a QB coach for the Montreal Allouettes in 2014. In 2015 he joined the St. Louis Rams as an offensive assistant, where I finally got his autograph on these two cards. He is also a noted philanthropist of the sport as well. His brother Aaron is a noted quarterback and coach in Arena Football.

Jeff Garcia is one of these guys that I am really happy to get a response from. Sure a lot of it had to do with persistence, but he’s just so underrated. People just don’t get that there are some players out there that have the heart of a champion and live and love the sport. I think Jeff Garcia embodies it. Jeff will probably never get into the ‘Pro Football Hall of Fame’ which is an absolute crime, because cumulatively, if you add up his statistics from all the leagues he’s played in, Garcia is one of 10 players in football history with more  than 30 TDs in back to back seasons.  Garcia’s accomplishment takes on all the more significance when you realize he did this on the 49ers. It wasn’t Joe Montana, Steve Young, or John Brodie. It was Jeff Garcia. He also has a 99 yard TD to his name (to Andre Davis), and greater than 43000 career passing yards.

CFL     ATT 2024     COMP  1249    YDS  16442    PCT 61.7
TD 111    INT 52       RAT  94.9
RUSH  384   YDS 2358    AVG 6.1    TD 24    LG  46
NFL 131     ATT 3676   COMP 2264    YDS  25537   PCT 61.6
TD 161     INT 83    RAT  87.5
RUSH 468     YDS   2140   AVG  TD 26   LG  33
UFL 8/8     ATT 255     COMP 132      YDS  1321     PCT  51.8
TD 9    INT  11     RAT  88.3
RUSH  24   YDS  68    AVG 2.8   TD 0   LG  14


Ismail, Raghib “Rocket”

pset91 ismail

Cards: Pro Set 1991, All World 1991 (x5), Upper Deck Legends College 2011, Classic 1991
Acquired: In Person 2013, Dallas Cowboys Rally Day 12/28

Rocket was one of the original players that I wanted when I first returned to the TTM hobby back in 2010.  He had made such a memorable impression on me when I was younger that I put him near the top of my list to find when I returned. I even went so far as gathering the cards, writing his address, and putting a stamp on an envelope. It was then I found out that Ismail does not sign through the mail. Time passed and I put everything aside with my move back to Austin.

udldg11 ismailOver the past few years I’ve done a decent amount of TTM, but the speedy Ismail kept eluding me. It was then that Dallas started offering “Rally Days” (a fan-centric event at the Cowboys stadium where they give tours of the stadium and ex players sign autographs.) From what I understand the Cowboys organization has been up to this for a while now, and after recent events had featured Rocket signing, I had begun to be whipped up into a fever.

Now, Ismail 99% of the time only signs “Rocket” at the free events. It is only at the paid signings he usually gives out his whole signature; However, under rare circumstances he will sign it for the first person or two in line at a free event. I could care less, as I would be pretty happy either way. In the end I did get the ‘shorthand signature’  but he did sign everything I brought.

cla91 ismailAfter driving to Dallas and waiting for well over an hour, I got up to the front. It had been an excess of Rocket’s time signing, and at these events, the next guy just replaces the one sitting at the table. Ismail is very, very good to fans in person. He spends a few minutes with each one of them, looks them in the eye, shakes their hands, talks to each one, signs a few things, and takes a photo or two. This is great, if you are at the front of the line. It’s not so great if you’re number 62 in line. Very easily, Rocket probably would’ve been able to go through the line 2 or 3 times if he had been ‘handled’ a bit more, but as fans began to clamor and shout, “Hurry up!”, I coldly calculated that I ran a very strong chance of being the last person who would be able to get Rocket that day- and that is exactly what happened.

As a drew a sigh of relief and approached the table, Rocket shook my hand, I told him that I had driven from Austin and had gotten lost getting here. He was surprised I came from so far away, and then asked me how I got lost, to which I said, “Let’s not talk about it.” Rocket got super excited when he found out that I owned a pair of his Reebok Paydirt hi top Pumps back in the early 1990’s and just as excited when he realized I was a ‘card guy’. Rocket then signed everything I had on me as Mel Renfro emerged from the curtain behind him. I began to feel badly when I realized I was the last person who was going to get his autograph that day, but he insisted on signing every one of them, despite my protests. Still all in all Rocket was the prize I had been after all along.

aw91 rocket portCard companies set up shop like crazy during the early 1990’s but there was no feeding frenzy like that surrounding trying to capitalize off of Raghib “Rocket” Ismail.  There was quite a buzz surrounding Rocket when he came out of Notre Dame and every card company wanted to say they had Ismail’s rookie card, because he was the next sure thing to drive sales. In the end, Rocket threw everybody- including the NFL -for a loop.

Bruce McNall was a wheeling and dealing regular Donald Trump of Canada, and he had decided that it was time to buy into gridiron football. Unable to secure an NFL franchise, McNall set his sights on the next best thing at the time: the CFL. Grabbing business partners Wayne Gretzky and actor John Candy, they bought a controlling stake in the Toronto Argonauts. After making waves with the purchase, McNall brazenly fired the first shot at the NFL, signing Rocket to an insane $18 million dollar contract. Rocket was to be the new face of the Argonauts, McNall’s media empire (which included All World Sports Cards), and the CFL.  All World hastily put together a 1991 CFL football card set 120 or so strong. Fully trying to capitalize off of the Ismail frenzy, AW produced 10 different cards covering Ismail in the set.

aw91 rocket 2The first year in the CFL, Rocket certainly had NFL executives worried about the Canadian invasion. He lived up to all the hype and excitement that scouts had predicted. With rumored sub 4.2 speed, Ismael could play not only receiver, but also returned kicks, punts and provide mismatches in the slot as a runningback. Ismail caught 64 passes for 1300 yards and 9 touchdowns his rookie season. He also ran for 271 yards and 3 TDs. Rocket averaged 25.4 yards on 31 kick returns and returned 48 punts for 602 yards including a 73 yard touchdown. Finishing second in RotY voting, he was named to the CFL All-Star team for his efforts in 1991, culminating in winning the Grey Cup and being named MVP after the season. 1992 was a frustrating season for Raghib as the team slumped to a 6-12 record. His numbers were down offensively, while his special teams statistics ticked up only marginally. With a financial noose tightening around the organization, Rocket came to an agreement to leave the team- and the league, after the 1992 season.

aw91 rocket krRocket arrived in the NFL as a member of the then Los Angeles Raiders in 1993. The Raiders shrewdly used a 4th round pick in the 1991 draft on Rocket. The legendary Al Davis, unable to resist the lure of Ismail’s speed gambled and came up spades.  After particularly ornery contract negotiations, Rocket finally came to terms with the Raiders. Never fully living up to the billing and the completeness at which he dominated the CFL in 1991, Rocket spent three years in LA/ Oakland. Starting only 16 games, he had 1357 yards and 9 touchdowns on 88 receptions, and a 21.5 yard average on 104 kick returns. The Raiders, traded Rocket in 1996 to the Carolina Panthers for a 5th round pick.

While the team excelled that year, Rocket only averaged a paltry 16.5 yards per game and failed to score a touchdown. He’d begin to see more playing time in 1997, culminating in a fine 1998 campaign that’d result in his first 1,000 yard season receiving as quarterback Steve Beuerlein‘s favorite target.

aw91 rocket pcThe Cowboys poached Rocket off of the Panthers roster. It was ironic considering that Dallas had engineered a trade in the days coming up to the 1991 NFL draft that would have allowed them to take him with the #1 pick, if he hadn’t signed with the CFL. Now here he was joining the team in 1999. It was a vastly different time. Aged were the days of the Super Bowl Cowboys. Chan Gailey was head coach, and Irvin, Smith, and Aikman were getting on in years. Aikman began to complain openly of the staleness that Gailey’s offense ran with. To make matters worse, Irvin would be critically injured in a matchup against the Eagles. Insert Rocket here as the hero of the hour. Ismael stepped in and did his best, catching the winning TD in OT over the hated Redskins in the first game of the season. He’d post his best season as a pro with 1097 yards receiving. After a disappointing 2000 campaign, Rocket played one final season in 2001, for the Cowboys before retiring.

aw91 rocket rookieRocket has been pretty busy since retirement. Living in the Dallas area, he’s been making the rounds on the Rally Day circuit. He’s been a celebrity TV personality on a few shows, appeared as a commentator on the 4 letter network, and was a coach in the Slamball leagues. Considered one of College’s greatest players, it is surprising that Rocket has not been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He lost the 1990 Heisman Trophy race to quarterback Ty Detmer, but as a consolation did land the Walter Camp Award. He is also considered one of Notre Dame’s finest athletes ever to don a golden dome. Rocket’s career stat line for the Irish is: 1,565 yards receiving, 1,015 yards rushing, 1,271 yards on kick returns, and 336 yards on punt returns, to go along with 15 touchdowns.

CFL   33     Rec 100    Yds 1951     Avg  19.5     Td 13     Lg  87t
Rush  70     Yds 425          Avg 6.0       Td 6     Lg  59
Kr  74           Yds  1925      Avg 26.0     Td 0    Lg 55
Pr  107         Yds 1216       Avg 11.3      Td  2    Lg 74

rocketNFL 126/74      Rec 363    Yds  5295   Avg 14.6    Td  28    Lg 80t
Rush 58      Yds  423     Avg 7.3      Td  2      Lg  37
Kr 109     Yds 2334    Avg 21.4       Td 0      Lg  66
Pr  1          Yds 20         Avg 20.0      Td 0       Lg  20