Ismail Excels at New Position

Paul Tithof – injured. <br><br> The Broncos' linebacker corps – depleted. <br><br> Ameer Ismail – a running back. <br><br> What does this all equal? The unlikely switch of positions by a player with no Division 1 experience and a start in his second game played. How did Ismail get to be staring linebacker, and what did he do when he got there?

It all started with a knee injury to sophomore starting linebacker Paul Tithof. Tithof tried to play against Toledo last weekend but only played a single play and reaggravated his injury which has put him on the bench ever since.

Add to that an injury to Mike Giorgianni who missed some of the first half against the Rockets but played throughout the game against the Eagles and you have a dire need for depth at linebacker.

Enter Ameer Ismail. The 6' 2" 230lbs. running back from Holland, MI answered head coach Gary Darnell's call to offensive players willing to make the switch to defense to bolster a depleted secondary and thin linebacker corps. "He fits our mold," said Darnell.

Ismail made the switch prior to the Toledo game in an effort to see playing time as early in his career as possible. He even made an appearance against Toledo, but not long enough to make it to the stat sheets.

Making the switch in positions certainly wasn't the big adjustment for Ismail. "I played some linebacker in high school and in Grand Rapids. Coming in as a running back whatever the coaches feel that can get me on the field and make an impact on this team that's what I'm going to do."

With a mere handful of plays under his belt at the Division 1 level Ismail made a leap not expected of someone with such little experience. Named starter and paired with Giorgianni the converted running back not only fit right in on defense, he led the team in tackles and had three tackles for a loss including a sack.

"I was nervous on that first drive," said Ismail. "After that first drive I made a couple tackles and I was jacked up. I was ready to go. I had great coaching from the sideline; Paul Tithof was there teaching me, telling me what to do out there… I knew I had something to prove to earn the defenses respect; I had to go out there and make some big plays."

The great individual effort in the loss almost didn't happen however. Ismail was recruited out of West Ottawa High School to play running back at WMU. Not playing immediately he promptly left the team to play a year of junior college football at Grand Rapids Community College where he played both running back and linebacker.

"I talked to coach Darnell about returning and he was real excited about it but unfortunately I tore my ACL," said Ismail who had surgery over the summer on his injury. "I wasn't sure if I was even going to play at all this season."

That injury to his ACL put his playing career in jeopardy and put his rejoining of the Broncos this fall on hold not only past preseason camp, but also into the season. Following his surgery Ismail entered rehab and was able to start playing again about three weeks into the season.

"I actually came back earlier then expected and switched positions and I was blessed to get a chance to get in there at linebacker and help this team out." Seven tackles and one start later Ismail has certainly made his mark on this struggling Bronco team.

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