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Ambrose Wooden: Mr. Sunshine

Ken Fowler | Thursday, November 15, 2007

Even when Ambrose Wooden is having a bad day, you’ll never know it.

The fifth-year senior cornerback will walk down the quad with a smile on his face every day. That’s just who he is.

“When I walk around campus, I don’t know who’s having a bad day. I just smile and nod at them,” Wooden says as the dimples on his face come to life. “I don’t know who they are, but I thought to myself, I just try to be an inspiration.”

That Wooden has such a mentality may be inspiration on its own. He came to Notre Dame from The Gilman School in Baltimore as a wide receiver. After sitting out his freshman year as a reserve wide out, he moved to cornerback as a sophomore. He started all 12 of Notre Dame’s games as a junior and made SportsCenter and Sports Illustrated when Matt Leinart’s fourth-down pass to Dwayne Jarrett snuck past his outstretched arm in No. 1 USC’s 34-31 last-second win over the No. 9 Irish on Oct. 15, 2005.

The next season, a knee injury limited his time at starting cornerback and forced him into a nickel-back role. Now, sophomore Darrin Walls has gotten the starting nod over Wooden.

But Wooden just keeps on plugging, smiling all the while.

“I always think that somebody has something worse than you have right now,” he says. “… You’ve got kids going off fighting in wars, you’ve got all types of stuff going on around the world. Whereas, this is, it’s a game. Yeah, it means a lot, but it’s still just a game.”

For his career, Wooden has made 116 tackles and intercepted two passes.

He will get nostalgic, though, as the final seconds of the Duke game mark the end of his career at Notre Dame Stadium.

“It’s definitely hitting me,” Wooden says. “While things still aren’t going the way we’d like them to … I’m still happy being here. It’s still just a blessing being here and playing for coach Weis and for this university. It’s been great.”

When this season ends, Wooden will have a couple of options for his future. He’s going to try to make an NFL roster, but he’s also in his fifth round of interviews with Goldman Sachs. Wooden eventually wants to become a trader for one of the world’s largest investment banks.

“Every Sunday, I’m leaving out of here after meetings and I’m flying into New York by 12 o’clock Monday morning and interview all day and I’m back Monday night or Tuesday morning for workouts and practice.”

Wooden also plans to interview with Credit Suisse, and he is considering participating in Teach For America.

That work ethic is not unusual for Wooden, who graduated in May from the Mendoza College of Business as a finance major with a 3.834 grade-point average in his final undergraduate semester.

As a fifth-year athlete, Wooden is enrolled in three classes – including Human Ethology, the University’s largest class in history, and a directed readings course on the principles of charity.

“I’m not in class all day like most kids but I’m staying busy,” Wooden says. “[The NFL’s] definitely a dream of mine, but I have another dream. I didn’t go to school for four years for nothing. And I want to make sure I have that opportunity.”

And while his four years have been good, he’ll probably be on campus some time again soon.

“I’ll definitely be back. This place is special,” Wooden says. “You’ve been here for four or five years. This has been a part of your life. You don’t just go home.”