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Career takes Amir Carlisle in opposite directions

| Thursday, November 12, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 9.37.02 PMAnnmarie Soller | The Observer

Amir Carlisle’s collegiate career has been defined by transitions.

After his freshman season, the Santa Clara, California, native transferred from USC to Notre Dame.

He sat out the entirety of his first year with the Irish with an ankle injury and had to battle back to play at running back his junior year.

Then he moved down the hall to the receivers’ room his senior season, lining up in the slot instead of the backfield.

Now the graduate student is wrapping up his fifth year, having found a home both at Notre Dame and with his fellow receivers.

“It’s been very fun in receivers’ room this year,” Carlisle said. “It’s a competitive room, but we’re really close on the field, and we’re really close off the field, so I really think that kind of depicts itself on the field because we’re such a unified group. We push each other to get better on a daily basis, so it’s definitely a fun experience, working with the guys, and I really enjoy it being the same guys from last year, and we’ve really had that opportunity to really build that camaraderie together.”

As he continued to adjust to the new position last season, Carlisle totaled 23 receptions for 309 yards and three scores. Through the first nine games of this season, he’s up to 21 catches for 222 yards, averaging 24.7 yards per game in a unit that’s pulling in nearly 270 passing yards each week.

“Just having experience playing from previous years has increased my football intelligence, so just being able to go out there and understand the nuances of the game and to be able to pass that on to the younger guys has been fun,” Carlisle said of what he brings to the group.

But he wasn’t always a receiver, and he wasn’t even at Notre Dame when he began his collegiate career four years ago.

“It was just a faith-based decision,” he said of his move from the Trojans to the Irish. “We really prayed about it because obviously going from USC to Notre Dame and being rivals, I didn’t really think it’d be possible at first, but God opened up a door, and it was a door that I couldn’t pass on, so I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come here when that opportunity was opened. It was a faith-based decision, and it was a decision I’m happy with.”

Another decision came after the Music City Bowl last December, when Carlisle had to figure out if he wanted to stay in South Bend for another season and make up for the year he missed because of the ankle injury. He said he realized it wasn’t time to go just yet, and his return meant all the mainstays of the 2014 receivers group would be back on the team for another season.

“For me, it’s always faith-based decisions, just praying about things, and I didn’t feel like my time here was over, and God had more in store for me and this team here, so it was just a faith-based decision, and I’ve loved my time here, and it’s been a blessing to be able to be here for a fifth year,” he said.

As one of 10 graduate students on the Irish roster, a group that includes fellow starters such as center Nick Martin, cornerback Matthias Farley and linebacker Joe Schmidt, Carlisle contributes to a leader-heavy unit of Notre Dame’s most senior players.

“We have a lot of strong leaders at the top of the team,” he said. “It’s also been fun that we’re kind of the old guys around the block now. It kind of feels weird because it feels like yesterday when I was a freshman, but it’s definitely been cool to be around another year with the guys I’ve been around for several years now.”

While, for the first time, Carlisle’s situation in football has stayed the same from one year to the next — no transferring schools, no injuries to recover from, no position switches — his non-football schedule has undergone a transformation from taking a full classload as an undergraduate student.

“The primary difference has just been being able to focus more on football and a little less on the schoolwork because I’ve got my degree now and kind of just taking some classes that really don’t mean much, so being able to focus more on my craft and just having a little more free time, so it’s more of a relaxing kind of lifestyle, definitely,” he said.

The receiver said he is enrolled in just one graduate course this semester, “Building a High-Tech Startup,” after he received his degree in information technology management from the Mendoza College of Business last May.

Though the duties assigned to being a starter on a 9-1 squad certainly consume a large part of his day, Carlisle said he enjoys taking the lessons from that class and researching different startups online.

“I’m really big into technology and stuff, so I really like to, in my free time, just learn more about that and like coding language and stuff, so that’s what I’ve been doing this semester,” he said.

Carlisle said he will prepare for and participate in Notre Dame’s on-campus pro day once this season wraps up, but he also has his mind set on using what he’s learning right now in his future endeavors.

“Eventually, further away, when football is over for me, I definitely want to go back home, Silicon Valley, and really delve into the startup world,” he said. “That’s my career goal in terms of when football is over.”

Even if he ends up back where he started in California, Carlisle said he will keep up the bonds he has formed at Notre Dame.

“There’s so many different types of resources that are available to us as student-athletes here, and that’s kind of been the most eye-opening experience for me is just meeting so many different people from so many different backgrounds and around the world actually,” he said. “That’s just really been an eye-opening experience and something that I just look forward to, building more connections with future Notre Dame graduates as I kind of transition out of here.”

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