That changed this weekend when he visited the Big Ten school. The Ohio resident toured the football facilities and the engineering department with assistant Jim Reid, his lead recruiter.
Gooden said that after the visit the Hawkeyes likely will remain in position to land him throughout his process. The defensive end/linebacker gained an appreciation for the school, town and state.
"(Reid) talked about when you're looking at a university, you really have to get on campus to experience all that it has. I didn't know, necessarily, what Iowa was about. I never had a chance to experience what the atmosphere was like at Iowa. He really opened my eyes to that," the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Reynoldsburg High junior said.
"He spoke with me about how if I came to Iowa I would get a degree first; that Iowa is all about the people."
Iowa offered Gooden a scholarship last month and encouraged him to visit. He witnessed the school's following at Saturday's men's basketball game against Northwestern.
"The fans seem very passionate about their athletics," he said. "When we were watching the game, there was non-stop cheering. The team was victorious on senior night and there was a lot of energy and a great atmosphere in the basketball arena. It seems like athletics are the center of campus and I loved the experience of the game."
Iowa has played a 4-3 base defense since Kirk Ferentz became head coach in 1999. There's been more flexibility in recent years and it sounded like Gooden could contribute to that trend.
"Coach Reid told me that I would be playing a position where I can do both (defensive end and linebacker). Some downs I would be rushing the passer playing defensive end. Other plays I would be standing up, playing linebacker and covering the tight end and playing outside," he said.
"I'd love to be a hybrid. I'd play anywhere the coaches need me and if the coach thinks I can play both positions then I'm OK with that."
Gooden lines up at rush end and strong side linebacker for Reynoldsburg. He also runs the open 200 meters along with putting the shot and throwing the disc on the track team, which speaks to his athleticism.
Academics play an equally important role to football in Gooden's decision-making process for college. He feels good about both at Iowa after sitting in on a seminar in the engineering department conducted by a staff member.
"She really emphasized how it's a big campus but it's a small-campus feel in the engineering department. There's only 500 engineering students and you can major in whatever field of engineering you like. They don't cap off class sizes. The student-staff ratio is 23-1. One of the biggest things I saw there was that they have a 99 percent job-placement rate after graduation, which is high even for engineering standards. I really liked that," he said.
Gooden reports scholarship offers from Iowa, Bowling Green, Indiana, Kent State, Miami (OH), Ohio and Toledo. He said he's also interested in Michigan, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Purdue and Duke, in large part because all of them feature strong engineering programs.
In addition to getting a feel for academics at Iowa, Gooden allowed time to experience the school's upgraded offerings in his sport of choice.
"The football facility was a shock to me. I didn't know that they had built a brand new facility with state of the art equipment, an open weight room, new locker room, new indoor practice facility. I didn't know all of that was there before I got to campus. It was pretty cool to be able to tour the new facility," he said.
Gooden plans to take his time with the recruiting process. He doesn't have a set date for a commitment.
"I haven't decided on a time to start narrowing it down," he said. "I'm just trying to learn as much as I can about each individual school and what it would be like living on campus. I won't wait until national signing day to make my decision. I plan on being committed well before that. I won't make a decision before the end of the summer camp season, though, and it could be anytime between then and the end of my senior season."