Late-Bloomer

The oft-used phrase, "practice makes perfect," likely doesn't suit Amir Carlisle.

Notre Dame's unassuming touchdown scorer would never view himself as anything close to perfect. Practice means progress, sure. But for Carlisle, only one entity can be perfect.

"I give God all the glory for who I am and where I want to go," Carlisle told reporters Wednesday night, just four days removed from his first -- and second -- touchdowns scored in an Irish uniform.

"It was the definition of a team effort. I really don't pay attention to (post-game accolades) to be honest. I give God all the glory for what happens on the field. For me, whether people say my name or not, I'm a team guy first, that's all that matters to me."

Carlisle's scoring receptions marked the second and third of his collegiate career -- he previously hit pay dirt as a USC freshman, also on a pass reception though from his former position of running back.

And therein lies the oddity of Carlisle's career arc: the former four-star prep prospect that amassed a whopping 73 rushing scores (and averaged an obscene 11 yards per carry) in his high school career has never rushed for a collegiate score. And with his move to slot receiver, he may not, despite two seasons of remaining eligibility.

Touchdowns through the air, and plays made in the passing game, however, could continue in bunches. That was the case Saturday night when Carlisle was targeted for seven passes, catching all seven, five ending in either a first down or touchdown.

"When you can get involved early in a game, you get in a rhythm and can build off that momentum," said Carlisle. "You keep playing hard, it'll come.

"I give all the credit to God and the offensive line and (quarterback) Everett (Golson) for making plays. I have the easy job. He puts it in the right place."

The Switch

Destined for backup duty at running back after a trying 2013 season, Carlisle was approached during off-season workouts by head coach Brian Kelly about switching to the slot position. After enduring a learning curve during the spring, Carlisle began to gain confidence.

Enough to hone his craft thereafter in the off-season.

"The off-season, working on the finer details, doing cone drills and getting in and out of your breaks," he said of his seemingly quick transformation to receiver. "Focusing on seeing the ball all the way in for the catch. It's a daily process, you have to have good attention to detail. You can't have any lapses.

"I give God all the glory for who I am and where I want to go," he continued. "But in the off-season, I trained with Michael Johnson, he was a former offensive coordinator for the 49ers and now is the head coach at my high school (The Kinds Academy, Sunnyvale, Calif.). He did an awesome job of teaching me the finer details of the position."

Those details are apparent in Carlisle's ability to separate from a defender, unique for a receiver neophyte, and a trait not many college pass-catchers acquire quickly.

"(Offensive coordinator) coach (Mike) Denbrock really emphasized that, when we're getting in and out of our breaks, not to decelerate but to accelerate," said Carlisle. "He emphasized that all throughout the summer and in camp. That's been a point of emphasis for me to work on it on a daily basis in practice."

His work isn't close to complete.

"You have to be a student of the game, really understand how to run routes against man, against zone," said Carlisle. "You have to be fast (from the slot), have to be quick and really catch the ball with your hands and make plays in space."

Kelly saw all of the above in Carlisle. But athletic skill doesn't always translate from the practice field to Saturdays. Through two games of 2014, it finally has.

"We felt like he had the capability," said Kelly. "It was a lot of football for him to learn, it's still a lot of football for him to continue to learn. He plays hard, he is a great kid, he's a conscientious kid, but he was learning a lot of football at that position. 

"I think really what put him over the top was his concentration on catching the football with his hand. Once that really became something that he felt comfortable doing, I think it really allowed him to progress quickly."

Carlisle's best day as a collegian came one week prior to what will be the most exciting contest of 2014 on a personal level.

His father, Duane is director of sports performance for the University of Purdue.

"It's cool to compete against my father, but I'll approach it in a professional manner and be prepared," said Carlisle. Asked if he would speak to his father more or less this week, Carlisle didn't hesitate.

"The same. He's my father. A father/son connection comes before any football activity."

A clear perspective. Continuous progress. And striving daily for something close to perfect.


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