Amir Carlisle helps Irish in various ways after transfer
Kit Loughran | Thursday, November 20, 2014
From USC to Notre Dame, from running back to receiver, Amir Carlisle has switched schools and positions en route to finding his place on the Irish offense.
Carlisle’s on-field presence has been made known during his third year at Notre Dame. While he missed his sophomore season due to an ankle injury, Carlisle made his first appearance as running back in 2013. Carlisle played in all 13 games, carrying the ball 47 times for 204 yards with an average of 4.3 yards per carry.
However, the 2013 season ended less advantageously than it began for Carlisle after his fourth-quarter fumble in a close game with Purdue on Sept. 14. That spring, the decision was made that the Santa Clara, California, native would switch positions to wide receiver — a decision that would transform his career.
“It’s been a learning experience, definitely,” Carlisle said. “A new position is a new perspective. But it has been a cool position switch, and it’s a learning experience each and every day. We are getting better as a unit, and I’m getting better as an individual.”Even for a talented player like Carlisle, switching from a familiar running back position to an new slot receiver role did not come without extra practice and focus.
“I met with [Irish offensive coordinator] coach Mike Denbrock in the spring time after practices to get the concepts down and to learn the more minute details of the position,” Carlisle said.
His dedication has certainly paid off. Through 10 games, Carlisle has recorded 273 yards on 19 receptions for three touchdowns, averaging 14.4 yards per catch. In Notre Dame’s 31-55 loss to Arizona State on Nov. 8, Carlisle made a 32-yard catch midway through the third quarter, tying his season-long catch against Rice on Aug. 30. By the end of that same third quarter, Carlisle beat his 32-yard stat with a 35-yard catch.
He didn’t stop there. Carlisle caught a 25-yard pass from senior quarterback Everett Golson for his third touchdown of the season and a total of 92 yards on the game, to bring the Irish within three points of the Sun Devils, 34-31.
Perhaps in one of his breakout games this season, Carlisle exploded on the field against Michigan on Sept. 6. The converted receiver posted his first two career touchdowns for the Irish, with seven receptions for 61 yards. His successful completion of a screen on his second touchdown speaks to Carlisle’s ability to transition his running back traits to those moments when he gets the ball in space, as he put the Irish up, 28-0.
“Performance-wise, [I would consider] the Michigan game this year [one of my best games],” Carlisle said. “But hopefully, God has bigger and better things in plan.
“My ultimate goal is to help the team win in whatever way I can. I’m not a guy who’s really focused on statistics, but whether it says W at the end of the day in the win column.”
Carlisle isn’t only helping the Irish on their road to victory in his new slot receiver position. He has also become an important asset on kick returns.
Coming off the Arizona State game, he leads the Irish on the season with 491 yards on 23 kick returns, averaging 21.3 yards per return. Carlisle recorded a career-long 47-yard return off the opening kickoff against Purdue on Sept. 13, which marked the longest Notre Dame kickoff return since former Irish running back George Atkinson’s 47-yard return against Purdue last season. Against Arizona State alone, Carlisle had four kickoff returns for 102 yards.
“Kick return has always been fun for me,” Carlisle said. “It’s always an opportunity to make a play, and it’s really a team unit because it takes all 11 guys on the field in order to have success.
“So, it’s definitely been fun, [and] it’s been a blessing that the coaches have trusted me to this position. The best is yet to come for our kick return.”However, Carlisle’s journey has not been all smooth as it may appear on paper. Since leaving USC after the 2011 season, Carlisle has suffered from ankle, collarbone and MCL injuries. For most, sitting out an entire season due to injury as Carlisle did his sophomore year would demotivate, as would the MCL injury that knocked the 5-foot-10, 190-lb. receiver out early during the Purdue game this season. But Carlisle has continued to keep his head up and his focus as strong as ever.
“It’s just about leaning on God and my relationship with God as a Christian as well as staying mentally strong with God as a healer,” Carlisle said. “It’s about trusting in God and trusting in my training staff to get me back on the field.
“Unfortunately, I’ve spent a good amount of my career with our training staff, and they’ve done a great job throughout my career.”
Carlisle said he will continue his football career next year at Notre Dame, as he still has one year of eligibility left. While his ultimate goal of reaching the NFL remained steady during his transfer from USC to Notre Dame, Carlisle said he was grateful for the opportunity to shed USC’s cardinal and gold for the Irish blue and gold — despite trading in the Southern California sunshine for the South Bend winters.
“Notre Dame was always a dream out of high school, especially when Notre Dame was recruiting me,” he said. “It’s such a prestigious school, with all its tradition — academically and athletically.
“The opportunity presented itself while I was at USC, and it was kind of a God-send that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I decided to come here. The weather is obviously an adjustment, but otherwise my experience here has been a very solid experience.“
As the senior helps the Irish close out their regular season, Carlisle expressed humility for his on-field success, attributing his achievements to the support provided by teammates, faith and especially his family.
“I have two great Christian parents who have really raised me well, and I just want to thank them for all they’ve done and for getting me to the position that I’m at today,” Carlisle said.