BLOOMINGTON — Ameer Ismail has had minor appearances in feature films. He still holds an NCAA football record, and he's about to play professionally in China.
Soon, Ismail's talent will be back on display at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
Ismail, who played one standout season as a linebacker with the Bloomington Edge, was named the indoor football franchise's new head coach on Tuesday.
“Playing in Bloomington provided me with the platform and opportunity to advance my playing career into opportunities with teams in the NFL and CFL," Ismail said in a news release. "I plan to continue and grow that network and provide opportunities for my players while they live their dream in playing professional football.
“I will bring high-character, hard-working players to Bloomington. I’m going to rejuvenate, revitalize, and regenerate the team, fans, and city with an elite and energetic coach and team that is revolved around doing things the right way, winning, and having fun doing it."
Ismail replaces John Johnson, who mutually agreed to part ways with the Champions Indoor Football team on Friday. Ismail becomes the fifth head coach in franchise history, following Ted Schmitz (20-18 in two stints), Kenton Carr (35-27 in two stints), Mike Murray (9-5 in 2011) and Johnson (18-15 in three seasons).
“It’s an honor to be named the new head coach of the Bloomington Edge," said Ismail, thanking team owners Omar and Nargis Khokhar for the opportunity. “To have the opportunity to coach for a team I played for is unique and special. Bloomington is a great city with the best fans, community, and resources for players to succeed in their professional football careers.”
Ismail spent last season as defensive coordinator for the Spokane Empire, helping the Indoor Football League expansion team reach the United Bowl before falling to five-time defending champion Sioux Falls.
He also has had previous coaching stops with Cedar Rapids and Tri-Cities, where he guided the defense to a No. 1 ranking.
“Coach Ismail is one of the brightest coaching talents in the indoor football ranks. He was highly coveted by several teams, but his past experience with the Edge was a key factor in this decision. To land someone of Ameer’s caliber to our organization is outstanding,” said Omar Khokhar. “We have complete faith in Ameer to bring a championship to Bloomington.”
Earlier this summer, Ismail was selected by the Dailan Dragon Kings in the inaugural China Arena Football League draft. He leaves for China this week for a six-week stint playing and coaching in the new league.
Ismail was a defensive standout at Western Michigan, where as a senior he tied an NCAA record with six sacks in a 2006 win over Ball State. He finished the season with an NCAA-best 17 sacks.
In his one season with the Edge, Ismail shared the IFL's Defensive Player of the Year honors, setting a league record with 167 tackles to go with 5½ sacks and three interceptions.
An IFL Hall of Fame finalist in 2015, his Bloomington playing stint was the second of his three seasons, between stints with Tri-Cities and the Chicago Slaughter.
After a 7-5 record this season, the Edge earned their first playoff win since 2008. Bloomington then lost a 52-51 semifinal heartbreaker on the road to eventual champion Wichita.