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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Mahdi reflects on nationally recognized, record season

Kobe Arriaga
Texas State sophomore running back Ismail Mahdi (21) breaks a tackle for extra yardage versus Troy, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, at Bobcat Stadium.

Texas State finished a historic season with a 45-21 victory over Rice in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl. There were many surprises for the Bobcats throughout the 2023-24 season, including the unexpected emergence of sophomore running back Ismail Mahdi.

Mahdi did not let the struggles he experienced early in his football career define him and chose to let his game speak for itself. Coming out of Plano East High School, Mahdi received zero stars from college football recruiting services and decided to attend Houston Christian University.

While playing for the Huskies, Mahdi only rushed for 459 yards and a single touchdown during his freshman season. Following the season, he elected to enter the transfer portal and committed to Texas State shortly after. Since his transfer, Madhi’s game has taken a step in the right direction in only one season.

Mahdi said the decision to pick Texas State was a simple one to make.

“[Texas State] was closer to home. I wanted to stay in Texas. The coaching staff, [also] coach G.J. [Kinne] and the offense. I felt like I could fit into this offense,” Mahdi said.

During the 2023-24 season, Mahdi crushed his freshman year’s rushing yard total, racking up 1,209 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Mahdi is the 12th player in program history to rush for over 1,000 yards. The last player to accomplish the feat was Robert Lowe during in 2014.

Mahdi also accumulated 276 receiving yards and 529 return yards on special teams to finish the season with 2,014 all-purpose yards, which led the entire nation in the category. Mahdi also became the first player to register 2,000 all-purpose yards at Texas State in its FBS era.

According to Mahdi, despite the lofty expectations he set for himself when transferring to Texas State, he surpassed what he thought was expected of himself.

“[Breaking records] is something I anticipated,” Mahdi said. “My pops and I talked about reaching those goals. I did surpass some of them. I wanted to get 1,000 rushing yards. I surpassed the goal that I set.”

Mahdi’s playstyle out of the backfield helped propel Texas State’s explosive offense this season. Mahdi was a workhorse for the Bobcat offense, averaging 6.1 yards per carry throughout the season.

“He’s a great kid. He brought it every day,” Kinne said. “He put the team first and had a heck of a season.”

Mahdi has been named to three different All-American nominations. He was named a second-team All-American as an all-purpose player by the Football Writers Association of America, a second-team All-American by The Athletic, and a first-team All-American by both CBS Sports and 247 Sports.

Despite all his accomplishments, Mahdi remains humble and said the entire team played a role in helping him reach his achievements.

“It’s a team thing. Everybody contributes,” Mahdi said. “First team All-American, my [offensive line] helped me. Everybody contributes.”

With all the nominations, Ismail Madhi takes pride in overcoming adversity and propels himself toward a better life for himself and his family.

“I know my family has been through a hard situation, and I overcame a lot of things just having that grit, that heart. I go hard every day in practice, knowing that this is an opportunity that not a lot of kids from my country get,” Mahdi said.

Mahdi is of Kenyan heritage, which is very important to him. According to Mahdi, his Kenyan heritage, being a part of his upbringing, helped shape him into the player he is today.

“Trying to fit in with people and the environment, coming from a different country [and] learning how things work here was a struggle,” Mahdi said.

A tradition for Mahdi is to wear a necklace of his mom every gameday as a way to honor her. Mahdi said his parents provide him with a support system that has helped him get to where he is today as a football player.

“My parents help me out. They’ve helped me through my injuries and motivate me,” Mahdi said. “Every time I need to make a decision, or I’m going through something, those are the first people I hit up. They always give me good advice. They’re my parents. They’re the ones who brought me into this world, so they’re the ones I go to for decisions.”

Despite his outstanding season for the Bobcats, Mahdi does not see an end to the ride just yet. He sees a future at Texas State and continues his push toward glory for the All-American nominee.

“I’ll stay here. Why not make history here like I have done? The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. You got to know what you have here,” Mahdi said. “[Coach] Kinne lets me be myself [and] he puts me in positions that help me exploit my game.”

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