NOTRE DAME — The path to recovering from a broken ankle to compete for a starting spot on a Division I football team can be slightly smoother when a player’s father was a trainer in the NFL.
On one hand, there’s the medical advice; on the other, access to practice with NFL free agents.
Such was the case with Notre Dame running back Amir Carlisle, who transferred to ND after spending his freshman year with USC in 2011. Carlisle broke his ankle last spring and sat out the entire 2012 campaign.
Now he’s back and — after spending spring break in San Diego working out with Mark Sanchez, Jamarcus Russell and Darren Sproles — ready to climb the depth chart.
“It was a great learning opportunity to learn from guys who are where I want to go,” Carlisle said during a media session on Friday, March 22. “It really helped me grow as a player.”
With the graduation of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, Carlisle will be competing for playing time alongside the returning George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel and incoming freshmen Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston.
Despite not having played a down in nearly a year, Carlisle said he’s felt back to 100 percent for two months and there’s no physical or mental hurdle to overcome during spring drills.
“I’ve been out of the game for a while,” he said. “Getting my rhythm and my tempo back and just getting comfortable out there. A lot went into it, running again and learning how to do everything again because I hadn’t run in so long. I’m back and praising God and (am) happy.”
He doesn’t plan on that changing once the Irish suit up in pads on Saturday, March 23.
“There’s no mental block,” he said. “When the pads come on it’s going to be even easier. When you get the pads on, it’s 110 percent to the wall. I can’t wait for an opportunity to get the pads on tomorrow and to show the coaches what I can do in pads.”
Head coach Brian Kelly has already taken note. When asked Wednesday which formerly injured players are catching his eye, Carlisle was at the top of his list.
“We’re starting to see him as almost 100 percent,” Kelly said. “We saw some real exciting flashes from Amir. He’s got a gear. He’s got a high level where he’s really going to be able to help us.
“I can definitely see us playing both Amir and another back at the same time. He’s got the ability to play, he’s a very good pass catcher, he’s got good ball skills, I could see us getting him the football in a number of a different ways with another running back on the field.”