WILKES-BARRE — When Qadry Ismail was in junior high, his mother transplanted him and his brothers to live in South Wilkes-Barre with their grandmother to escape crime in northern New Jersey.
Four decades and a Super Bowl ring later, Ismail came back to Wilkes-Barre to pay homage to a community that fostered his success.
Gratitude was the key theme of Ismail’s principal address Friday at the 69th annual banquet of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Friendly Sons of St. Patrick at the Best Western Genetti Hotel & Conference Center.
“It is great to be back in Wilkes-Barre and be amongst family,” Ismail began.
He noted that several Friendly Sons, notably former Meyers track coach and current Coughlin track coach Paul McGrane, encouraged him to have the strength, fortitude, will and knowledge to success in his sport’s highest level.
“Guys that walk in front of you are more worried about themselves,” Ismail said. “They worry about how they are perceived and tell you their fish stories and how great they were.
“I consider the people in this room the people who have walked beside myself and my brothers and my family along the way.”
Ismail enjoyed an outstanding football and track and field career at Meyers and Syracuse University. He, along with his brother Raghib, played in the NFL from 1993-2002 that featured stints on the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens rosters.
Currently the Ravens’ lead radio color analyst and a frequent contributor to the NFL Network, Ismail caught a touchdown pass in the Baltimore’s Super Bowl XXXV championship in 2001.
“I look at the prizes and the accomplishments we had, and that is quite a list,” Ismail said. “And I also look at the process of that. There are some people in this room that are family that have helped me in that process of molding me and gone along the way of walking beside me.”
Ismail wasted no time to reflect on the life of the late Mickey Gorham, his former football coach at Meyers, before the “softer, gentler years later.”
Ismail said that during his junior year, his team went to scout a Dallas-Lake-Lehman game. After beating the Black Knights, the Mountaineers students chanted, “Dallas wants Meyers.”
In his pre-game speech the folllowing week against the Mountaineers, Gorham — “who was better at motivating any team than any coach I’ve played for, including greats like Mike Ditka,” Ismail said — amped up his team enough that the Mohawks ran out of the locker room with too much excitement.
Ismail and his teammates turned to find themselves screaming “Dallas wants Meyers! Dallas wants Meyers!” in an awkward confrontation in the Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium tunnel.
The Bel Air, Md., native took shots at his former rivals and verified several rumors that go back to his playing days.
He put an end to the question of who was faster between he and his brother. Ismail said that Hall of Fame wide receiver Tim Brown told him that Raghib would “toy” with his Raiders teammates in Al Davis’ sprint drills.
Raghib’s speed led Qadry to work on hurdles instead. Twenty-six years later, Qadry still owns the District 2 Class 2A records in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles. His 1600 relay team, which also won the legendary Penn Relays, also still holds the district record.
“Rocket and his speed was why I said ‘I’m no fool. Let me go ahead and run the hurdles,’” Qadry said. “I became a very good hurdler because the first time we ran the 100, I was like, ‘I’m not going to catch him. That’s OK. I’m going to go over here to these obstacles, and let’s see him catch me.’ ”
“A missile could overcome obstacles, while a rocket likes to have a clear path.”