For 17 years, Kasey Carrier's autumns were dominated by one thing: football.
From the age of 4, once the summer began to wind down and the air began to cool, Carrier would suit up in pads and get ready for the season, whether it was Pop Warner, high school or college ball.
That year, Carrier's junior season at New Mexico, he injured his ankle early in fall camp and missed a couple of games. His coaches sat down with him and decided it would be in everyone's best interests if Carrier took a medical redshirt that season.
"It was very tough," Carrier said. "I had never taken a year off from football my whole life. I started playing at 4 and my first time taking a year off was when I was 21 years old."
It didn't help that the Lobos slogged through a dismal 1-11 season in which they fired coach Mike Locksley after four games.
After the 2011 season, the Lobos hired former Notre Dame coach and Sewickley native Bob Davie, who brought in a run-based option offense. Carrier, meanwhile, was back on the practice field and ready to make up for the year he lost.
He did that and then some, rushing for a school-record 1,469 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012.
"I've always looked at other backs and said, 'Why not me?' " Carrier said. "I never got that opportunity until 2012, last year."
That chip on Carrier's shoulder came from the fact that despite rushing for 4,415 career yards and 61 touchdowns for Pearland High School, in Texas' highest classification, he didn't receive much interest from major colleges.
Boise State and Utah were the biggest names to show interest, but both backed off. At the end of the recruiting process, Carrier's only Division I-A scholarship offer was from New Mexico, so off to Albuquerque he went.
"I look forward to playing those teams [that didn't recruit me] every year," Carrier said. "I mean, every year. It is what it is, and now I love where I'm at. I wouldn't change it for anything."
Part of the reason Carrier feels so comfortable now is the offense Davie has installed the past two years. Last year, the Lobos ran for 3,917 yards, fifth-most in Division I-A.
They've kept it up this year with 294.0 yards per game on the ground. Carrier leads all Division I-A players with 345 rushing yards through two games.
"It's actually been very fun and pretty easy," Carrier said. "The offense for the running back, it's not very difficult to pick up. It's a great offensive scheme and zone scheme to be a part of if you're a running back. Really, you fall in love with it playing in it."
Saturday, Pitt will be tasked with shutting down Carrier and the Lobos offense.
Panthers quarterback Trey Anderson was a sophomore at Pearland for Carrier's senior season and said he isn't surprised by his former teammate's success. But he has given his current teammates some advice on bringing down the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Carrier.
"You've got to bring your body when you tackle him," Anderson said. "He's going to run through arm tackles and he's shifty. You've got to make sure you bring your feet and hit him with everything you've got."
Pitt coach Paul Chryst said Carrier is one piece of the New Mexico offense that stands out when he watches tape.
"This isn't just a coach trying to play up a guy; he's a good player," Chryst said. "And I think certainly their scheme presents some challenges. He's shifty, powerful enough to break tackles and he has the ability to turn it into a big play."
For his part, Carrier said he's excited about the opportunity to showcase his abilities on a large stage against an ACC opponent. He also noted that the trip to Pittsburgh will be the farthest east he has ever traveled.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity to play a BCS school and Pittsburgh is a great program, it has been for many years," Carrier said.
Looking back, that lost 2011 season seems like ages ago for Carrier, who now harbors legitimate NFL aspirations. He's back, he's healthy and he's running past defenses on a weekly basis.
"It was hard to watch my team suffer and go through the tough times that year," he said. "[But] it was the best thing for me."
NOTE -- Former Pitt quarterback Tra'von Chapman has enrolled at Division II Ashland University (Ohio), a team spokesman confirmed, and is eligible to play right away. He was dismissed from Pitt last month after pleading guilty to an April assault charge in his hometown of Kent, Ohio.
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG.