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Ambrose Wooden: Versatile cornerback sees football as ‘ticket’

Kate Gales | Friday, November 17, 2006

In his career as a football player, Ambrose Wooden has played center, offensive lineman, running back, tight end, receiver, cornerback and safety.

During his freshman year, he redshirted as a wide receiver. By his junior season, Wooden started at cornerback.

He said it’s the hardest position he’s every played.

“It’s exciting, you can never take a play off,” he said. “You make one play, one wrong step and you can give up a touchdown. It helps you grow as a person because you deal with so much adversity, you get beat everyone sees it, where as a lineman, if you get beat no one sees it.”

Wooden came into the 2006 season with 79 career tackles, after being third on the team in 2005 with 74. He also has had two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

But after a knee injury earlier this season the former starter has played as a nickelback and third corner behind Terrail Lambert.

He’s remained positive and plans to come back for a fifth year. Wooden is a self-described “happy guy,” but takes what happens on the field seriously.

“I gave up a big play last year and that still haunts me,” he said, referring to a fourth-and-nine play against then-No. 1 USC on Oct. 15, 2005. “You’ve just got to grow.”

Wooden has played football since he was five, when he joined a Pop Warner team.

“I just enjoyed watching it, my brother was a football player, and I just started loving it,” he said. “It’s been my ticket throughout my life to get me here. I’ve used that to get the best education possible.”

The combination of education and athletics drew him to Notre Dame. He vividly recalls his visit, with current teammates Victor Abiamiri, Tom Zbikowski and Chinedum Ndukwe.

“We just had an awesome time,” he said. “It was a great experience … the whole family atmosphere I felt when I came here, my mom loves it. My parents are all about the education and the football and you get them both here.”

Ndukwe and Zbikowski, his companions on the secondary, would eventually become some of his closest friends.

“Sometimes I get playful, I like to mess around,” he said. “[Ndukwe is] the comic of the group, he can say one thing and everyone’s laughing. It’s funny, but as a whole, we know each other really well, we hang out, no one’s really vocal, I look at the other three guys and Terrail and the rest of the guys and you know exactly what they’re thinking. You can look in each other’s eyes and you spend so much time together. … You build relationships.”

Wooden, a former resident of Stanford and Dillon Halls, is looking forward to finishing the requirements of his finance major, which he said has helped him grow as a person.

He knows who he is, and the notoriety of the Notre Dame football program hasn’t fazed him.

“It’s exciting to be within the whole thing right now, it’s always been,” he said. “But you’ve just got to go out and be yourself. Day in and day out, I like to smile a lot, I’m a happy kid. You see me on Saturday, I’m a happy kid.”

Wooden said he will likely return for a fifth year, giving him a shot to earn back a starting position and another season’s worth of games at Notre Dame Stadium.

He looks forward to winning more games – his favorite part of football.

“Every game day, win or lose – the wins are definitely the best part,” he said. “Being in the locker room after and singing the fight song with your teammates, just that atmosphere in the locker room after a game. You can’t trade that for anything.”