SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Amir Carlisle was able to visit his family during this past bye weekend. He would not have been able to do that were he still at USC.
Carlisle has played for the same head coach all season. He also would not have been able to do that were he still at USC.
And the redshirt sophomore is going for his third straight win Saturday in the USC-Notre Dame rivalry — one more perk he would not have the shot at had were he still a Trojan.
Yes, it appears much has worked out for Carlisle since his switching of sides in what is perhaps the nation's most-storied cross-country rivalry. After following his family to the Midwest once father Duane was hired by Purdue as its director of sports performance, Carlisle now finds himself on the more stable end of the rivalry. He and the Irish will welcome his old friends and new foes for Saturday's primetime showdown at Notre Dame Stadium, in what will be Ed Orgeron's second game as interim coach.
It is quite a role reversal from Carlisle's first game inside the venue, when the then-true freshman and his Trojans delivered a death-blow to Notre Dame's BCS hopes in a 31-17 upset that propelled USC to a 10-2 finish and a top-5 ranking.
"It was the most, I guess you could say, live environment that we had that season," Carlisle said. "It was Notre Dame. Coach [Lane] Kiffin preached that the whole entire week, that this was a big game, this was Notre Dame. And I remember the energy that we had going into that game, it was very high. We got off the bus rocking the bus, so it was a great experience to come here and actually play."
His father said that the family had a pastor pray over Carlisle back home this past weekend to help keep him from getting overwhelmed by the different forces at play entering the game.
"I'm not going to lie," Carlisle said. "Yeah, there's an excitement for me personally to be able to face my former team. I'm not going to let that excitement deter me from my focus on the game itself. I'm going to approach this game like any other game, but there is a little extra excitement."
Carlisle's workload has taken a dramatic dip over the Irish's past three games, as he has received just eight total carries after getting the call 30 times through the first quarter of the season. A Week 3 fumble late at Purdue had put the Irish's win in jeopardy and has minimized his opportunities since.
His father, who was on the Boilermakers' sideline for the contest, said the scene unfolded in slow motion for him.
"I just hear everybody saying, 'Ball's out! Ball's out!' " Duane Carlisle said. "And everybody's ecstatic on our sideline, the whole stadium erupts, I can only imagine what the coaches are thinking on the other sideline and I was just frozen, I was frozen. That's my son, and to know that he had all that on his shoulders in that moment was tough. It was tough. If I could've called a timeout myself and tell him things are going to be OK, I would've."
Instead, he later hopped on a three-way phone call with his son and a former player of his, 49ers star Frank Gore. Carlisle was a ball boy when his father worked for San Francisco before the Purdue move, and he received a hands-on education from a number of NFL veterans. Gore, Duane Carlisle said, had taken Amir under his wing, and he wanted to help the fellow running back put the gaffe behind him after the Purdue game.
This weekend will mark the second reunion of sorts in the past five games for Carlisle, who missed all of last season because of an ankle injury suffered shortly after the NCAA granted him a transfer waiver to play immediately. With USC and Notre Dame his top targets coming out of King's Academy in Sunnyvale, Calif., and with his father then employed by the 49ers, Carlisle had ultimately chosen the Trojans three years ago, with their proximity to Hollywood and his desires to become an actor then serving as heavy factors. The family's move to the West Lafayette, Ind., area made his switch to Notre Dame ideal, and he is still able to major in film, along with management information systems.
Carlisle will see many familiar faces Saturday night, though not the one who had brought him to USC, as Kiffin was fired five games into this season. The reviled ex-coach has been an easy target for much of his career, but the Carlisles are thankful for the time they spent with him.
"Lane Kiffin did right by us, totally," Duane Carlisle said. "I hate to see a man lose his job. He loved Amir. He did right by Amir. I don't have anything negative to say about USC as a football program."