Steve Ishmael breaks two program records in his career finale

first_imgFrom Section 128, row nine, Blessed and Darlene Ishmael watched their son play in the Carrier Dome for the first time. His father chuckled as he looked back to Steve’s early years, when a tall skinny kid in Miami tossed footballs around with kids sometimes 10 years older than he was. On Saturday afternoon, Blessed laughed about Steve’s childhood dreams to play big-time college football, then to make an NFL roster. It was the only life, the only dream, Steve ever wanted. Blessed knew it was possible, but never did it feel as real as it did Saturday.In Syracuse’s (4-8, 2-6 Atlantic Coast) 42-14 loss to Boston College (7-5, 4-4), Ishmael, making his 38th career start, finished with a career-high 187 yards receiving yards en route to breaking a pair of Syracuse program records. First, he surpassed Amba Etta-Tawo’s single-season receptions record of 94, which Etta-Tawo set a year ago in a rout at Clemson. Then, on the final touchdown catch of Ishmael’s college career, he broke Marvin Harrison’s career receiving yards record (2,728). Ishmael idolized Harrison as a kid, and he broke his idol’s record in his final game at Syracuse. Ishmael finished the day with 11 catches.A month ago, Steve’s parents watched him in Syracuse’s loss at Miami, the first time they had seen him play in-person since he was a senior at North Miami Beach (Florida) High School. The next time they saw him play, Saturday, he had the best game of his college career.“It meant a lot,” Ishmael said. “Just knowing they were in there in the stands gave me motivation. My last game, them getting a chance to really see me play. They got a chance to see me finish out the right way.” Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 25, 2017 at 6:31 pm Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21center_img Forty minutes after the loss, Ishmael held a game ball with both of his hands. Across the middle was a piece of tape. Written in black Sharpie read “#95.” It was his 95th catch of the season, breaking the program record Etta-Tawo set a year ago at 94.Breaking the record is of particular significance to Ishmael, who finished last season third on the team in receiving yards. He said his “disappointing” junior season, which followed a breakout sophomore season in which he led the Orange in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, hurt more because he did not pose as a downfield threat alongside Etta-Tawo. It bugged him.“Seeing what Amba did and going through that pain of not being able to help him as much as I wanted to last year,” Ishmael said, “that really inspired me. Especially coming into this year, it really helped me to never take anything for granted. I took that mindset into this season, a mindset I’m going to carry with me for the rest of my life.“I spoke with Amba in the summer,” Ishmael said. “He told me, encouraging me, ‘I know you good, just go out there and do your thing.’ I actually told him, ‘My bad, man, I didn’t get a chance to help you as much as I did last year.’ And he was like, ‘It’s cool, everything happens for a reason, just continue trusting God and go along with the process. Make the most out of this year.’ I took the words to heart.”And Ishmael delivered. He served as one of SU’s three captains Saturday, while eclipsing the program receiving yards record amid a historic season. With his performance at Florida State three weeks ago, Ishmael was named ACC Receiver of the Week because he caught 12 passes for a then-career-high 143 yards. After he caught the final touchdown pass of Syracuse’s upset over Clemson, he was named a midseason All-America Second Team honoree. Junior quarterback Eric Dungey said Ishmael is “hands down the best receiver in the nation.”On Oct. 21 against Miami, the Miami native played in front of his parents for the first time since his senior year of high school. He played this season ranked second on the ACC’s active receiving yardage list. By the ninth game of this year, he already had more catches and receiving yards than he had had in any of the previous three seasons.“He’s left a big mark on this program,” said fellow senior receiver Ervin Philips, who has the most career catches in program history. “He’s been through a lot personally, but I’m so proud of him because of his perseverance. Last year didn’t go the way he wanted it to go, but he exploded and had a great year.”Slightly more than three years ago, Ishmael arrived at SU as a tall and skinny receiver from South Florida. He chose the Orange over offers from Oregon, Louisville, Cincinnati and Illinois, hopeful his path at SU would lead to the NFL. After he graduates, Ishmael said he will go home and work out in the Miami area. He is projected to be selected in the fifth or sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, per NFLDraftscout.com.“Even if you don’t buy in initially, if you can change your mind, and find some common ground, you can have an Ish type of year,” head coach Dino Babers said after the loss to BC. Babers said this week that he thinks Ishmael can play in the NFL.Growing up, Ishmael adored Harrison, who played at Syracuse in the 1990s and later for the Indianapolis Colts. Ishmael has never spoken with Harrison, but when he arrived at SU four years ago he asked to wear jersey No. 8. That’s what Harrison — who ranks ninth in NFL career receiving yards — wore as a Syracuse receiver.“Humble,” Ishmael said of Harrison. “Even when he scored, he didn’t want to celebrate … one thing I really model my game after is his humbleness.”After his final career touchdown reception, Ishmael slowly jogged to a fan in the first row behind the end zone. Ishmael, stoic, high-fived the fan and turned around, allowing a couple of teammates to celebrate around him. Commentslast_img

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