Before arriving as one of the last players in Gamecocks coach Bill Clark’s first camp in August, the junior linebacker might have been the most traveled player on the roster.
His winding route to become the 94th player on the invited 95 took him cross county and across the country. He played for two rival high schools and two junior colleges, but he said he is at JSU to stay.
“I’m stationary now,” he said. “This is where I’m going to be. This is the last stop.”
Carlisle’s travelogue began at North Clayton (Ga.) High, but after his 10th-grade season, the coaching staff wasn’t renewed. He wanted to keep playing for a beloved position coach and followed him to neighboring Jonesboro (Ga.) High, where he racked up 235 tackles in two years.
That got him on everybody’s recruiting radar. Test scores forced him to go the junior college route and that put him even farther on the road.
He first went to Butler Community College in Kansas and helped the school reach the NJCAA championship game, but he “wasn’t mature enough as a freshman” and was forced to find another place to play. He landed at Arizona Western.
He arrived at JSU on Aug. 1, the day before the first practice.
Moving from place to place wasn’t so tough, but the conditions were something he had to get used to.
“In Kansas it was adjusting to the weather,” he said. “I’m not used to that cold and snow. Then in Arizona, it was like 118 during camp.
“My momma always told me football was going to take you a lot of places, and God was going to take you down a lot of roads to see if you could handle it. All these moves helped me mature through football, through life, growing up and being a man.”
One thing about playing in a lot of places, you collect a lot of stuff. Carlisle still has gear from all the places he has played. Some of the stuff is quite the conversation starter.
“They have a lot of questions, like how did I get there and where am I going next,” he said. “When I first got here, I came in and had an Arizona Western shirt on. They saw the purple and gold and thought it was Arizona State. I had to explain to them this is a junior college.”
When he arrived at JSU, he found himself trying to break into the rotation at a position steeped in senior experience. He has been a force on the special teams, then got chances to play linebacker because of injuries to Rashad Smith and Harris Gaston.
Last week against Eastern Kentucky, he broke out with six tackles, including two sacks, and forced the fumble Ketrick Wolfe scooped up near the goal line and turned into a touchdown.
“Now that I’m here, it’s time to do what they recruited me to do,” he said. “I’ve been waiting on this opportunity to let the coaches know I could play.
“I’ve been wanting to play since the first day I got here. Coach Clark told me don’t give up. They always say when one guy goes down be ready. You never know when it’s going to happen, keep working hard. I did, the opportunity came, and now I’m in the rotation even though we have four seniors.”
What Carlisle has done on the field hasn’t surprised anyone connected with the Gamecocks.
Defensive coordinator Duwan Walker saw it while recruiting him for South Alabama and was glad to see the 6-foot, 230-pounder was still available when he got to JSU. Cornerback Junior Hough saw “an awesome downhill linebacker hitting everything” when he played against him in high school.
“You could tell this kid had a knack for the game,” Walker said. “There were a lot of players on that football field, and every play he was on the ball. A lot of people looked at his size and had some doubts, but you could see now he’s a playmaker.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.