University of Central Florida senior safety Kemal Ishmael capped off a stellar college football career by being drafted by the National Football Leagueâ€™s Atlanta Falcons. Ishmael was a seventh round selection. The 5-foot-11, 206-pound Ishmael finished his career as UCFâ€™s all-time leading tackler among defensive backs with 368 career tackles. He also led his team in tackles three different seasons during his career, and is only the third UCF player to accomplish this feet. He was voted Conference USA defensive player of the year by the leagueâ€™s coaches. Ishmael, who started 49 straight games for the Black Knights, had three interceptions, four pass breakups and one sack.
Ishmael exploded onto the college scene as a freshman in 2009, registering a robust total of 70 tackles in his 13 games, with 11 of those tackles in one game. In 2010, he started in all 14 games and totaled a team-high 93 tackles. His efforts were rewarded that year when he was named to the All-Conference USA First Team. Ishmaelâ€™s numbers dropped only slightly in his junior year, but the performance remained outstanding for 2011. In fact, he beat his own record when he logged 15 tackles in one game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His 2011 efforts garnered only an Honorable Mention for the All-Conference USA, which was a bit surprising considering his endeavors for the year.
Voted by his team as one of their captains, Ishmael saved his best play for his final season, registering 124 tackles, 14 of which were recorded during the Conference USA Championship Game. Against the University of Southern Mississippi in October, he intercepted a pass during the second overtime, scoring a touchdown that clinched the first overtime victory in UCFâ€™s history. His senior year earned him a slew of team awards, including Most Valuable Player, Outstanding Defensive Back, Outstanding Defensive Player, and a Captainâ€™s Award. That was topped off by the ultimate tribute paid to him by the coaches of Conference USA, who voted him the Defensive Player of the Year.
Even though he was a relatively late round draft pick, Ishmael enters a relatively favorable situation with the Falcons. They have two pro-bowl safeties in Thomas DeCoud and William Moore, but with little depth behind them. So a reserve position at the very least is well within reach for an over-achiever like Ishmael.