Two Carlisles, one commitment

When Kings Academy (Sunnyvale, Calif.) junior running back Amir Carlisle went to Stanford for the Cardinal's camp last weekend, he had relatively low expectations. Sure, Carlisle had been high on Stanford for a while and thought there was a small chance he might receive a scholarship offer if he had a standout camp performance.

Ultimately, though, Amir Carlisle was really just trying to put in a good showing and make a good impression upon the coaching staff.

"I was hoping for an offer but it really wasn't an expectation," Carlisle said. "I was just going in there to play hard and God would take it from there."

However, after the Stanford coaches witnessed Carlisle in action, Carlisle's hopes turned became reality. Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh approached the junior Monday afternoon and verbally offered him a scholarship.

It then took all of 24 hours for Carlisle to accept.

"First of all, I felt it was the place that God was leading me to," Carlisle said. "Second of all, Stanford is a great academic school. I also thought the coaching staff was a good fit for me and the program was going in the right direction. I just felt, overall, it was a great match."

Despite sitting on the Stanford offer for only a day, Carlisle's commitment was hardly a spur-of-the-moment deal. Carlisle said that he has looked favorably upon the Cardinal for quite some time now.

"Stanford was at the top of my list of schools [before the offer]," Carlisle said. "I liked the campus and what the school had to offer. Before going into the camp, I felt real strongly towards the school, and I already had in my head that if they offered I would commit. I just liked everything the school had to offer."

It's also clear that Carlisle didn't commit to the Cardinal because he lacked other options. Schools such as Oregon, UCLA LSU, Notre Dame, Harvard, Princeton, and Colorado State each had shown interest in Carlisle, though none had offered. All of those schools were looking at Carlisle for running back, except for Oregon, which was recruiting him as a defensive back.

"I think I have really good vision, good feet and really good acceleration," Carlisle said. "I think my top-end speed is good and I'm very versatile. I can catch the ball, line up in the slot, or split out wide. I make guys miss and can make one cut and get up the field. I just think I'm very versatile in the way I can attack."

Still, Carlisle, who hopes to play running back in college, acknowledged that his game has room for improvement.

"I just want to improve overall," Carlisle said. "I need to keep working on everything like my blocking and getting stronger in the weight room. I'm going to keep working with my father on my speed, my quickness and catching ability. I just want to get better overall, at everything."

In his quest to become a better football player, Carlisle will have plenty of help. His father Duane is the head strength and conditioning coach of the San Francisco 49ers and is as well-versed in cutting-edge training techniques as anyone in football.

Duane took his first job in professional football when Amir was 13, and both father and son agree that growing up around professional football has helped Amir's development as a player.

"I'm ahead of the game," Amir said. "Talking to Frank Gore and different players for the 49ers helps increase my football I.Q. Knowing different schemes, defenses and different ways to come out of a stance helps my game expand mentality. Also, training with my dad, who's on the cutting-edge of training, helps me get ahead of the game in the training aspect of sports."

Duane added that, "Being around football has helped Amir immensely," he said. "When we lived in Philly and I worked with the Eagles, he'd spend a lot of time around Brian Westbrook. I was training Brian and there Amir was, going through warm-up drills with Brian Westbrook. And then when we moved to the Bay Area, Frank Gore befriended him. Frank actually attended one of his games at Kings Academy – they talk all the time. Frank mentors him.

"Amir also has had the opportunity to work on the sidelines and deliver the pictures to coaches during our home games. He's been in an NFL locker room since he was 13 years old, and I think that's helped him incredibly. He's right there on the sidelines in the heat of battle, and he can't help but absorb the presence of being on an NFL sideline and what comes with that. I think that's given him a really good competitive composure when he's had to compete, and he's picked up a lot of different techniques from guys just watching them."

And while Amir's body still has plenty of maturing to do, Duane sees some similarities between his son and the NFL players he trains on a daily basis.

"Amir has incredible quickness," Duane said. "I'm not saying this as a dad but as a coach. He has quickness that parallels some of our players'. His ability to start, stop and then accelerate is tremendous. He's a bender. When he's going through the hole, it's hard to find him because he can bend. He has great vision and he's tough. He's very, very tough."

That toughness might be the quality that college coaches admire the most about Amir. Last season, Amir made a remarkable return from a midseason broken collarbone to play in Kings Academy's playoff game against Sacred Heart Cathedral.

"He came back right at the minimum six weeks for a six-to-eight week injury," Duane said. "The doctors approved him to go against Sacred Heart Cathedral, but said he would have discomfort playing, which he did. Still, he put up 19 carries for 201 yards against Cathedral with two touchdowns, he outrushed [California 2009 signee] Dasarte Yarnway and he had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in that game. But [midway through the game], he came out for probably two series because the shoulder was aggravating him. I was in Buffalo and Amir had the trainer call me from the sidelines and was like ‘Dad, please, can I play, can I play?' I had to call our team doctor, who had been treating him here, and they gave the green light for him to go back in. Then he goes back in and I'm listening to the game on the radio, and he probably gained another 60 or 70 yards when he went back in. So he's a really, really tough kid and he's really competitive."

Still, like any young player, Amir's game has plenty of room for improvement. While neither Amir nor his father felt like there was one particular weakness in Amir's game, both agreed that it wouldn't hurt for Amir to get bigger, faster and stronger.

"I just want to improve overall," Amir said. "I want to keep working on everything - my blocking and getting stronger in the weight room. I'm going to keep working with my father on my speed, my quickness, and my catching ability."

"The areas that he needs to work on, as with any developing athlete, is everything," Duane said. "He's got to continue to work on his strength. He's got really good functional strength, but he doesn't have great upper-body strength in the weight room. He's got good lower-body strength, great explosion in the weight room. He's got to continue to work on his pass catching and continue to work on all the technical aspects of the running back position and just continue to get better. In basketball, he does a great job with change of pace and keeping guys off-balance. I think that innately transfers to football. He's got to begin to take that to a higher level in terms of the taking the cross-benefit of both of those sports and applying it to each game."

As his father referenced, Amir is also a standout high school basketball player. While far from a sure thing, it is within the realm of possibility that Amir might play two sports in college.

"We're going to leave that door open as a possibility," Duane said. "He's received Division I interest and letters in basketball, and I think he would really like to play. He loves both games. This next month he will participate in the Pump Showcase and that will be a good indicator of where he is on college coaches' radars. His AAU team is absolutely loaded. Pretty much all the kids have received multiple offers and this is Amir's first year on the team, so we'll see what happens. He's got D-1 ability without a doubt. He's got D-1 talent. He's just got to work on continuing to improve his shooting. If he can shoot the ball consistently, that's really going to help his chances of playing basketball at Stanford at the Pac-10 level."

Carlisle finished his freshman year with a 4.14 GPA, and posted a 4.0 as a sophomore. At Stanford, he hopes to either double major in drama and economics, or major in drama and minor in economics. After football, Carlisle is looking forward to pursuing a job in acting or business.

"Once my football career at Stanford is over, what I do depends on how I do in football at Stanford," Carlisle said. "I might want to pursue a career in the NFL, or if that's not possible, I love to act, so that would be another field I'd want to pursue. If that didn't work out, I'd want to start a business of my own. I'm not sure what kind of business yet, but I want to be an entrepreneur."

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